Visual journalist and documentary filmmaker Amr Alfiky was repeatedly assaulted by police officers while photographing a protest in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, on May 29, 2020, according to a federal lawsuit.
Alfiky is one of five news photographers who filed a federal lawsuit on Aug. 5, 2021, “seeking to hold the New York Police Department [NYPD] accountable for its violation of their First Amendment rights.” The suit is being led by the National Press Photographers Association, of which four of the journalists are members, in partnership with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
According to the complaint, Alfiky was covering a demonstration near Barclays Center with his camera in one hand and press pass in the other when an NYPD officer began shouting at him. Alfiky repeated, “I'm a journalist, I have a press pass,” but the officer responded with “I don't give a fuck about your press pass,” shoving him in the chest with a baton.
The complaint stated that the officer continued to shove Alfiky back, causing him to trip and fall with “such force that an approximately one-inch-wide benign cyst on his back ruptured,” which led to "excruciating pain.” The officer continued to hit him with his baton and did not stop until two protestors pulled Alfiky away and helped him stand, according to the complaint.
“As a result of this assault, Mr. Alfiky suffered fever and infection. He later had to undergo medical treatment including a surgical procedure to clean the infected area in his back, and an additional procedure to remove the ruptured cyst,” the complaint noted. “Mr. Alfiky has also suffered back pain since the assault, which has been evaluated as likely caused by a traumatic incident.”
“He was showing his credential and not only did the officer completely disregard it, but actually said, ‘I don't give a fuck,’” Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel to the NPPA, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “That seems to sum up, unfortunately, a lot of the attitude of law enforcement toward journalists.”
Alfiky and the New York Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.