Reporter Eric Baerren was attacked by a parent who wanted him to delete photos from his camera on Aug. 2, 2021, after covering a school board meeting, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Baerren told the Tracker that the school board at Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, had been discussing wearing masks in school and he had been covering the story for the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and taking photographs.
He told the Tracker that after the meeting, at about 9 p.m., a man approached him while he was packing up his equipment in front of the school auditorium and asked if he'd taken photos of his daughter during the public comment period.
“I told him I didn't know and he asked me if I'd go through my camera to check. I told him I wasn't going to do that and that if I did, it was while his daughter was giving public comment during a public meeting. He told me that he'd asked me nicely, which I took as an implied threat.”
The parent then “tried to grab my phone out of my hand and kick my camera away from my grasp. From behind me, I heard the district superintendent call for the police, so I got my equipment and stood up to wait for them.”
“Then the man indicated that he wouldn't let me leave until I complied with his wishes, and I then pointed my thumb to the approaching officer.” An officer from the Mount Pleasant Police Department’s Youth Services Unit was on scene, and he responded quickly.
Baerren said that the officer took them into the lobby, and after a brief investigation asked the reporter if he wanted to file assault charges. He declined, and two more officers kept the parent in a corner until Baerren could leave.