Photojournalist on assignment for New York Times hit with projectiles while covering Brooklyn Center protest

April 12, 2021

Joshua Rashaad McFadden, a freelance photojournalist on assignment for the New York Times, said he was hit with crowd-control munitions while covering a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, early on the morning of April 12, 2021.

Several hundred protesters marched to the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, by a white police officer during a traffic stop. Wright’s death, on April 11, occurred as a former police officer in nearby Minneapolis was on trial in the death of George Floyd, rekindling a wave of protests against racial injustice and police brutality that had started nearly a year earlier.

As demonstrations continued late into the night, McFadden told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that law enforcement heavily used crowd-control munitions and chemical agents, like tear gas, on protesters and members of the press.

After midnight, in the early hours of April 12, he said he was standing with other journalists near the police station when a projectile hit him in his left thigh.

McFadden said the projectile burned a hole about four inches wide in his pants and left a powdery substance and brown singe marks on the fabric. He said his leg was badly bruised where the object hit him.

He didn’t know what type of projectile hit him. It may have been a flash-bang grenade or a tear-gas canister, because either can be hot, he said.

“It wasn't just a rubber bullet, I know that,” he said.

McFadden said he was hit with other projectiles on his legs as well, though none were as significant. He said he was wearing a helmet, and when he removed it later, he saw there was a mark on it that he believes came from some sort of projectile, though he wasn’t sure when he was hit.

McFadden said he was standing with a group of journalists who were clearly identifiable as members of the press at the time he was hit. He said he and other journalists were carrying large cameras. He said journalists in the group sometimes shouted out to identify themselves as press to law enforcement, though it was very loud.

He said he believed that he was targeted as a journalist, because he was near others who were obviously members of the press.

Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the response to protests in Brooklyn Center that night. Neither the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office nor the Brooklyn Center Police Department responded to requests for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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

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