U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist assaulted by rioters while covering Capitol insurrection

Incident Details

January 6, 2021

Photojournalist Chris Jones, who covers right-wing extremism for 100 Days in Appalachia through a partnership with Report for America, was assaulted and had his camera pouch damaged while covering the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The violent storming of the Capitol came after President Donald Trump had spoken at a rally in front of the White House in which he promoted false claims of election fraud and called for his supporters to march to the legislative seat of the U.S. government, where lawmakers were certifying the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, reported the New York Times.

Jones told the Tracker that he’d followed a group of demonstrators as they took the building but was stymied at the entrance, first due to the debilitating presence of tear gas and flash-bang grenades and then because rioters impeded his movement.

“Any time I went in, I got very quickly identified as press and it just got bad,” he told the Tracker. At one point, he said, he was no more than 20 feet inside the building when a rioter yelled repeatedly, “Are you press?” before picking him up and dragging him backward. Another then grabbed his legs. “The three of us clumsily made our way to the door,” Jones said.

At around 2 p.m., he said, a Capitol Police officer threw a flash-bang grenade right next to him and the heat tore through his camera pouch.

As Jones maneuvered among the crowd throughout the day, he said that many approached him with “We’re going to get you” and “You need to move on.” As with several journalists that day, such threats and harassment were common. The Tracker has documented such incidents, including one in which Jones was told he “deserved to be shot,” here.

“There was very clearly an intent and willingness. When they said, ‘Don’t stick around,’ they meant it,” he told the Tracker. He said he encountered younger teens who would show that they carried knives and one man who “flashed a pistol,” claiming, “I’m not here to fuck around.”

The Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country. Find election-related coverage here.

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