U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photographer says was assaulted twice by Chicago police during protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 15, 2020
Chicago, Illinois


Was the journalist targeted?
August 15, 2020

Freelance photographer Dominic Gwinn said he was physically assaulted by two police officers in separate incidents while covering a protest against police violence in Chicago on Aug. 15, 2020.

A stringer for Zuma Press, Gwinn had been following protesters as they marched down Michigan Avenue. He said he stood atop the median in the center of the street taking pictures around 6 p.m. when a police officer shoved him off the median. In a picture Gwinn tweeted, the police officer can be seen pulling his shirt as the photographer’s hands are raised.

In the photo, Gwinn is wearing press credentials from The Smoke Eater, a Substack newsletter, around his neck. Gwinn was also wearing a backpack that he said had a “press” patch affixed to it.

Gwinn said he threw up his hands immediately. “I’m just like, you know, ‘Dude, that’s fine, but you can’t throw me down,’ because he starts grabbing and tugging at me and trying to shove me down off the flower bed,” Gwinn told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an interview. Gwinn said he was cautious because the surface where he stood was concrete. ”It’s wet, it’s raining, I could very easily slip and fall and crack my skull open,” he said.

Gwinn told the Tracker that the officer let him go, but shortly thereafter, he was assaulted by another officer as he sought to photograph a woman, who was being dragged and arrested by police.

“A young officer and his colleague, they move forward towards me...and they’re like you can’t be here, you gotta move,” Gwinn said. The photographer said he again threw up his hands and told police he was moving. “Then the guy starts shoving me [...] and pushing me hard on the back and is whaling on my back with what feels like a baton,” Gwinn said.

According to Gwinn, the officer continued pushing him towards the protesters and through a cloud of pepper spray. “Everything just starts burning,” Gwinn said .

Gwinn tweeted a video he took as he ran, pursued by police, with other individuals down LaSalle Street, near the cross street of Adams Street.

Police eventually surrounded the crowd in a kettle, a police tactic used in protests to exert crowd-control by trapping protesters within a circle of officers.

Gwinn tweeted a video showing protesters trapped at the southwest corner of Marble Place and LaSalle Street, where police demanded to inspect the bags of people inside the kettle.

The photographer said police let another member of the press out of the kettle but that he opted to stay in and continue documenting the situation. Gwinn said he was not searched, and that when the police action ended, he was given a police escort outside the confines of the protest area.

Gwinn said he opted not to file a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability due to fears of retaliation from the Chicago Police Department.

A request for comment from the CPD was not answered.

The Aug. 15 protest drew hundreds of people and was organized by a number of local groups, including GoodKids MadCity, Blck Rising, March For Our Lives Chicago, Increase the Peace and others according to the Chicago Tribune.

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