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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]

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