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News crew hit with projectiles while covering Minneapolis protest

May 30, 2020

Just after Minneapolis’ curfew went into effect on May 30, 2020, a correspondent and cameraman for Turkey’s state-run English-language news channel were hit by projectiles fired by police.

Lionel Donovan, a Washington-based correspondent for TRT World, said he had set up for a live shot outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fifth Precinct just after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, near some peaceful protesters staging a sit-in at an intersection. Journalists were specifically exempt from the curfew by Gov. Tim Walz’s order.

“The curfew came and it was like a button got hit,” Donovan told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an interview.

According to Donovan, the police advanced down the street and began to fire off tear gas and flash bangs to disperse the crowd. One of the tear gas canisters hit cameraman Barbaros Sayilgan’s foot during Donovan’s live shot.

Sayilgan could not be reached for comment, but Donovan said he helped the cameraman and a producer off to safety, then went back into the street for more footage. Donovan was filming on his phone, he said, when a blue foam round struck him in the inside of his left thigh, breaking the skin.

“It felt like someone took a baseball bat and set it on fire and hit me in the leg,” he told the Tracker.

Donovan was wearing a helmet and flak jacket, both emblazoned with “PRESS” in white uppercase letters. He said he was not close to the crowd when he was hit.

“It definitely made us very jittery for the rest of the deployment because then we just didn’t trust the police in any way, shape or form to help us with anything,” he said.

Requests for comment sent to the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minneapolis Police Department were not immediately returned.

On June 1, Donovan tweeted a video in which he displayed the wound on his leg:

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 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.

Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, brought up the attack on the crew in a June 3 phone call with David Satterfield, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, according to an article published in the Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper.

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 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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