Photographer shoved with police baton at LA Wi Spa protest

July 17, 2021

Raquel Natalicchio, a freelance photographer, says she was shoved against a wall by a Los Angeles Police Department officer using his baton on July 17, 2021.

Natalicchio was on an assignment for Zuma Press to cover the protests around the Wi Spa. The spa, located in LA’s Koreatown, became a flashpoint for anti-transgender demonstrators as the result of a viral video that police are now treating as a hoax, according to Slate.

She told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that just before she was shoved, the LAPD had declared an unlawful assembly after the two groups of protesters began to clash in front of the spa.

She said that LAPD also showered rubber bullets at trans-rights demonstrators, some even being shot at point blank range — apparently in violation of an April court order banning the use of “less lethal” projectiles against protesters from less than five feet away, and restricting their use to situations in which the targets pose a significant threat of violence.

The LAPD formed several kettles, or tight cordons, around the protesters, telling them to leave the area while pushing them further along the street, so that the protesters were not able to disperse, she said.

Dozens were arrested while attempting to follow police orders to disperse, Natalicchio said.

At around 11 a.m., the photographer was on the sidewalk at Rampart Boulevard and 6th Street, when LAPD officers were pushing back counter protesters, activists and anyone walking on the street or sidewalk, she said.

“I communicated to the officer that I was press and that I would move back as the crowd behind me moved back. He then pushed me with his baton up against a wall while continuing to scream at me to move. Being I had nowhere to go, I stepped forward to turn around and find another way back and he pushed me from behind again into a crowd of protesters.”

An activist posted a video of the second part of the incident on Twitter.

The photographer said the incident had affected her mental health and she worries about her safety when covering actions in which police are involved. “It seems as if the police had no respect for me as a working journalist and treated me as if I was a protester.”

When contacted for comment, LAPD responded by email that the department had no further information to provide at this time.

This article was updated with comment from the Los Angeles Police Department.

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

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