Image from iOS.jpg

Photojournalist arrested covering Dallas protests, camera equipment seized

May 30, 2020

Freelance photojournalist Christopher Rusanowsky was arrested by Dallas police while on assignment for ZUMA Press documenting protests in the city on May 30, 2020.

Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Rusanowsky, 29, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was booked in Dallas County jail on a count of obstructing a highway or other passageway and was held overnight. He was released on bail the following day.

The count is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, according to the Texas penal code. If convicted, he could face up to 180 days in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000.

Rusanowsky denies that he was obstructing a highway. He said he had been photographing a group of protesters as they blocked traffic on Interstate 35E.

He said he stepped across the highway guardrail and onto the shoulder to take photographs, taking care not to step into the lanes of traffic. Soon after he moved to a grassy area near the interstate to photograph protesters.

Rusanowsky said he began to take photographs of a police officer shooting nonlethal ammunition at a protester at close range when the officer began pointing and yelling at him. He said the officer told him, “You are going to jail too!”

In response, Rusanowsky said he held up his two cameras and showed the officer his ZUMA-issued press credentials. Rusanowsky said the officer replied, “Yeah, yeah. Press, press. You are going to jail.”

The officer then threw him to the ground, he said, where another officer handcuffed him.

He said an officer seized his cameras and four lenses. He later retrieved the items from police headquarters; he said they do not appear to be damaged.

He was booked into Dallas County jail at 11:38 p.m., according to booking records reviewed by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, and was released after posting $300 bail the next day. He posted on Facebook about his release.

The experience has left him shaken, he said. “I’m terrified of cops right now,” he said.

“I don’t have training in hostile environment situations,” he said. “This makes me feel very vulnerable. But I believe in this job so much and I want to do this to give people voices.”

An emailed request for comment on Rusanowsky’s arrest to the Dallas Police Department was not immediately returned.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.

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

July 1, 2020 Update

Freelance photojournalist Christopher Rusanowsky, arrested while documenting protests in Dallas, Texas, on May 30, 2020, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that charges against him have been dropped.

Rusanowsky told CPJ, a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, via email that he received notice that the charges against him had been dropped approximately a month after his arrest, but that he had no further details.

Related Incidents

Videojournalist arrested, equipment seized and damaged during Austin protests

July 17, 2020
Independent videojournalist Hiram Gilberto Garcia was arrested and his equipment seized while covering protests in Austin, Texas, on July 17, 2020.Garcia, who posts his livestreams and interviews on Facebook and his website, was documenting protests against police brutality in front of the Austin Police Department Headquarters downtown when officers tackled him to the ground and punched him, KXAN News reported. Garcia’s livestream from that evening can be seen here.According to an affidavit obtained by KXAN, Austin Police Department officers were …

Photojournalist’s camera damaged during arrest in Portland

November 5, 2020
Freelance photojournalist Clementson Supriyadi was assaulted and arrested by Oregon State Police while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 5, 2020.In Portland, protests had been held on almost a nightly basis since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.At around 8 p.m., …
More related incidents