Brooke Anderson, an independent photojournalist, was hit with a baton and had her camera pushed into her face by police while covering a protest at a city council meeting in Berkeley, California, on June 20, 2017.
Anderson told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that she attended a special Berkeley City Council held meeting at Longfellow Middle School as a credentialed photographer. During the meeting, as the city council moved to vote not to end its participation in a controversial police training program called Urban Shield, a group of activists unfurled a banner in protest and were quickly arrested by police.
Anderson said she followed a group of the activists took photographs of the interactions between the protesters and the police. (Three of her photographs were later used by the San Francisco Chronicle as part of its coverage of the protest and aftermath.)
“The police started screaming, ‘Get back, get back,’” Anderson said. “But there wasn’t really anywhere to go because the crowd was so dense.”
She said that she walked backwards, while facing the police and showing them her press badge.
“I said multiple times, ‘I’m a journalist, I’m documenting, I’m not interfering,’” she said.
At this point, she said, a police officer hit her right arm — which was already bandaged due to an unrelated injury — and her camera multiple times with a baton.
“He hit my camera and then pushed it into my face,” she said.
She was left with bruises on her arm and face.
Anderson is a member of the Pacific Media Guild, which is part of the News Guild-CWA union. After the incident, Pacific Media Guild executive officer Carl Hall sent a letter to Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin and police chief Andrew Greenwood, documenting what had happened to Anderson and requesting a meeting. Anderson also spoke about her experiences at a subsequent Berkeley City Council meeting.
According to Anderson, the Berkeley police have so far refused to meet with her or with a representative of her union.
Anderson said that her experience has made her concerned about the Berkeley police department’s tactics and training.
“I repeatedly identified myself as a journalist,” Anderson said. “It’s not as if they didn’t care — but they acted as if it was their intention to prevent me from documenting.”