U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist Dave Minsky beaten and attacked with pipe by protesters in Berkeley

Incident Details

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A masked demonstrator strikes photographer Dave Minsky with a pipe in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, in Berkeley, California, on August 27, 2017.

— REUTERS/Stephen Lam
August 27, 2017

Dave Minsky — an independent journalist and photographer who freelances for Reuters, Vice, the Miami New Times and the Santa Barbara News-Press — was beaten by masked protesters on Aug. 27, 2017, while covering an anti-fascist protest in Berkeley, California.

Minsky told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that he was in Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park to cover an aborted white nationalist protest in Berkeley, which turned into an anti-fascist demonstration.

He said that he was carrying two iPhones, a reporter’s notebook in the back pocket and a DSLR camera with a zoom lens around his neck. He was using the iPhone in his left hand to livestream the anti-fascist protest on Instagram, while using the iPhone in his right-hand to take pictures of police officers in riot gear and anti-fascist protesters.

According to Minsky, he was taking photographs of the scene when a masked protester approached him and tried to grab his phone.

“This individual came up to me and tried to swat the phone out of my right hand,” he said. “You know, I moved my hand out of the way as he did that that and apparently that enraged him and so he started kind of like coming after me, and that’s when I started backing up.”

Minsky said that another protester tried to trip him as he moved backward towards the edge of the park, which caused him to lose his balance and fall down. Once he was on the ground, he said, a group of protesters began to beat him. 

“Two, three people started tried to grab my phones out of my hands, grab the [camera] off my neck,” he said. “They were hitting me in the face and kicking me in the face and the torso, in the ribs and more people joined in — you know, I think at this point there were four, five, maybe six people.”

Masked protesters beat independent journalist Dave Minsky, in this video recorded by Nathan Hope. One of the protesters then knocks the phone out of Hope’s hands to prevent him from filming the beating.

Nathan Hope

Minsky said that he tried to flee the scene, but a group of protesters chased him down. One of the masked protesters swung a pipe at him.

“She came up to me, and she cracked me in the ribs with a pipe … then that’s when two other people kind of tackled me and started hitting me in the head and trying to take my phone and my DSLR, and at one point someone ripped the lens right off my camera.”

Masked protesters chase independent journalist Dave Minsky, before hitting him with a pipe and tackling him to the ground.

Berkeleyside/Chris Polydoroff

Eventually, two Oakland police officers approached Minsky and escorted him away from the protesters. His shirt was ripped in half and he was missing one of his two iPhones, his camera’s 70-200mm zoom lens and his reporter’s notebook.

Minsky said that he was examined by EMTs and put in ambulance, but that he refused to go to the hospital because he did not have health insurance.

“I refused medical attention,” he said. “I don’t have medical insurance. … After the police brought me to the sidewalk and the EMTs looked at me, I was put in the back of the ambulance. I continually told them, you know, ‘I don’t want medical attention, please leave me here, it’s fine.’”

After being let out of the ambulance, Minsky said, he bought a new shirt at Walgreens and then returned to the park to continue covering the protest, only to find that it had already ended.

Minsky later noticed a sharp pain in his chest and had difficulty breathing — a possible sign of a bruised or broken rib. 

“I didn’t realize I was hit on the ribs until after I started driving home,” he said. “It became very apparent that it was hard to breathe and there was a sharp pain in my right rib cage and at one particular spot. I was touching it, and it felt really tender and hurt really bad. You know, it was difficult to breathe and it still kind of hurts.”

Minsky said that the pain in his ribs lasted about a week and that he still finds it difficult to breathe, especially when he is lying down or trying to sleep. He said that his wife, a physician’s assistant, believes that his rib is broken, but that he does not know for sure because he has not had a chest X-ray.

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