Freelance photographer Amy Harris was hit by pepper balls shot by law enforcement officers while covering protests in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 1, 2020.
The Associated Press reported that protests in Louisville have centered around the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both of whom were Black. Taylor was shot eight times in her Louisville home in mid-March by narcotics police who broke down her door. Floyd died on May 25, after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, kneeled on his neck for several minutes during an arrest. Video of Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the country.
Harris told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she had been photographing peaceful protests for several hours around Jefferson Square Park when police officers, who had previously been present only on the roofs of surrounding buildings, began to appear on the ground to enforce a 9 p.m. curfew. At approximately 10:15, Harris said, officers lined up in riot formation and announced that everyone present was in violation of curfew and ordered them to disperse.
The officers then began to shoot tear gas and pepper balls in all directions, according to Harris, and she was hit with a pepper ball. Both she and a nearby TV news crew, with whom she had paired up with earlier in the day for safety purposes, all felt the tear gas, she said. Harris said it was impossible to know whether they had been targeted.
Harris and the other journalists tried to flee but couldn’t tell which direction the projectiles were coming from and felt surrounded on all sides, she told the Tracker. Eventually, they were able to retreat. Harris said they heard the sounds of gunshots from the crowd while leaving.
The TV crew and their security team accompanied Harris to her car and she was able to leave the scene. Harris said she had bruising from the pepper balls but otherwise was uninjured in the attack.
The Louisville Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents — including others involving Harris — 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.