News crew in Baltimore chased away from protest, later assaulted and robbed

May 30, 2020

A group of individuals chased a Baltimore, Maryland, news crew away from a protest outside City Hall on the evening of May 30, 2020. Later that evening, the journalists were assaulted and robbed.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.

Dan Lampariello, a reporter for Fox45 WBFF, and cameraman J. Thomas Fisher were standing in front of the police line outside Baltimore City Hall around 10 p.m. when a group of individuals on the other side of the line demanded they move back. “Some in the crowd began getting angry with us,” Lampariello says in a voice-over of tape filmed at the scene.

A few minutes later, the situation devolved further, and Lampariello and Fisher were forced to retreat a few blocks from City Hall. “Do not touch the camera,” Lampariello said on the video as protesters push him and Fisher.

Ray Strickland, a reporter for WMAR 2 News, Baltimore’s ABC affiliate, captured the incident on video and posted it to Twitter.

About an hour later, the crew was chased again, and someone punched Fisher in the face, according to the WBFF report. A live unit was stolen out of his backpack, along with a microphone.

Early the next morning, Lampariello tweeted about the experience:

Interview requests sent to Lampariello, Fisher and the WBFF newsroom were not returned as of press time.

“Last night, a FOX45 news crew reporting from the Baltimore demonstrations outside of City Hall was attacked and chased away by a group of protesters who resorted to violence,”
Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the station’s parent company, wrote the Baltimore Sun in an email. “Despite this incident, we remain undeterred, and our incredible journalists will continue to fulfill their duties and report live from the protests.”

On June 8, a Baltimore pastor was arrested in connection with the incident and charged with five counts, including second-degree assault, robbery and theft under $25,000, according to the Baltimore Sun. That pastor, 32-year-old Westley West, maintains he is innocent.

According to a police report the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker obtained from the Baltimore Police Department, the station was able to recover the live unit using its GPS tracker.

“Our station will always support the Constitutional right to protest, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. At the same time, we also recognize the necessity of a free press, something that is more important now than ever before,” Bill Fanshawe, senior vice president of WBFF, told the Sun in a statement. “We ask that protesters recognize the important service that journalists everywhere provide, and should not be targets of anger and frustration.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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