Freelance photojournalist Cole Howard was left dazed and bloodied after being struck in the head by an object thrown during a protest he was covering in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 29, 2020.
Howard was covering one of the many protests that broke out that day across the U.S. 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.
In Atlanta, what began as peaceful protests turned violent, with individuals vandalizing CNN’s headquarters and setting a police cruiser on fire. “Things are getting heated up. As a police car is lit on fire by protesters and multiple vehicles are smashed up,” Howard tweeted in posting an image of the burning cruiser.
Howard told the Tracker that he was documenting the protest at the CNN headquarters downtown, describing the situation as “essentially in riot mode.” Sometime after 8 p.m., as Howard rushed to the front to get photos of police advancing to confront the crowd, he felt “a really heavy, blunt force hit the top of my head,” he said.
In a tweet Howard posted at 8:22 p.m., he wrote, “I got pelted in the head with a stone or something and am bleeding. Despite this intense moment things were actually pretty amicable before.”
Howard told the Tracker he believes he was hit by a rock or other object thrown by a protester at police.
William Bridges, a student at Georgia State University and general manager of the campus multimedia news outlet PRN, posted a photo on Instagram of Howard appearing stunned and bloody. Bridges told the Tracker that he observed protesters throwing rocks and other objects before Howard was hit.
As police continued to advance on the crowd, Howard began running, fearful that if he stayed put he’d be beaten by officers, he said. “Then I heard somebody screaming, ‘Medic!’ and felt warm liquid all over my face,” he said. “That’s when I realized I was bleeding.”
Howard believes he suffered a minor concussion from getting hit in the head, saying he felt “dazed and very off” for the rest of the evening.