Reuters photojournalist Brendan McDermid was struck and shoved to the ground by a New York City police officer while he was covering protests against police violence in the borough of Brooklyn on June 3, 2020.
The protest was one of many held this year across the U.S. following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
McDermid was photographing the demonstration in downtown Brooklyn, where police had mustered near Cadman Plaza Park to try to block demonstrators from advancing. According to a letter Reuters General Counsel Gail Gove wrote to the New York City Police Department, provided to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an officer first noticed McDermid around that time. Protesters and police clashed, and police began arresting demonstrators, sometimes using physical force, as the protest moved toward Borough Hall.
The officer who had observed McDermid continued to watch him, Gove wrote. After moving about four blocks, the officer approached McDermid, got very close to his face, and shouted at him to “get out of here!”
McDermid was clearly marked as a journalist, displaying his press pass and wearing a flak jacket with the word “PRESS” clearly visible, Gove wrote. An account of the encounter in a June 6 letter by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press noted that McDermid complied with police orders as he was covering the protest.
McDermid continued to photograph the scene after the officer left. A short time later, according to Gove, McDermid turned and saw the officer charging at him from about 10 feet away. The officer struck the photographer with his baton in his chest, and knocked him to the ground. While McDermid was on the ground, the officer hit him in the leg and on his helmet and laughed, Gove wrote.
McDermid consulted with a doctor after the assault, according to Gove. He wasn’t injured, which Gove said was because of the protective gear he was wearing.
The NYPD didn’t respond to requests for comment about the incident.
“Journalists must be allowed to cover the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are,” a spokesperson for Reuters said in an email to the Tracker.
RCFP referenced the assault on McDermid and several other incidents targeting journalists in its June 6 letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea urging the city to discipline officers who arrested or assaulted journalists, along with taking other steps to protect journalists covering protests.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.