Photographer Max Gersh was shoved by police with batons while covering protests in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 30, 2020.
The Associated Press reported that recent 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.
Gersh, a photographer with the Commercial Appeal, a daily newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, had been sent to Louisville to help with the Louisville Courier-Journal’s coverage of protests in the city (both papers are part of the Gannett newspaper chain). At around 11:50 p.m., Gersh and a group of reporters from the Courier-Journal and other outlets were walking down an empty block near the Fourth Street Live Entertainment district when a flank of police officers came marching down the street, occupying the total width of the block, Gersh told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Gersh was wearing a neon reflective vest that said “Press” and had his press ID around his neck on a lanyard.
Gersh said that he and the other reporters backed up against a building to stay out of the way but were told by the officers to “get moving” and clear the area. The journalists began to leave, with the officers moving behind them.
Suddenly, Gersh told the Tracker, the officers began to jog, forcing the journalists in front of them to break into a run. Gersh, slowed down by his heavy photography equipment, was falling somewhat behind the rest of the journalists when he said several officers began shoving him with batons and telling him to move faster. Gersh said he told the officers, “You don’t need to shove me,” but they kept pushing him along.
When the journalists reached the corner, they turned to move into another intersection, where the group of officers eventually arrived. Gersh said no reason was given as to why they needed to clear the empty street.
Gersh continued to cover the protests. The following night, while taking photographs of law enforcement, he said a police officer yelled at him unprovoked, “You guys are just as bad as the protesters.”
“We’re just doing our jobs,” he replied.
The Louisville Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents 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.