U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist pepper-sprayed, camera smacked at clashing LA protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 23, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?

Freelance photojournalist Shay Horse, center left, can be seen carrying multiple cameras to document clashing protests outside the Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024. Horse was pepper-sprayed and his camera struck that day.

June 23, 2024

Freelance photojournalist Shay Horse was pepper-sprayed and his camera smacked while documenting clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters in Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2024. At least nine journalists were assaulted while covering the violence that day.

The conflict began after the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement called for demonstrators to meet at noon outside the Adas Torah synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood in west LA to protest the alleged sale of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Multiple journalists told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that scuffles, brawls and exchanges of pepper spray broke out in the streets nearby between the protesters and counterprotesters.

Individuals from both sides — including a rabbi and security volunteers from the Jewish community — attempted to intervene and prevent the violence from escalating. CNN reported that Los Angeles Police Department officers established a perimeter around the synagogue.

Horse told the Tracker that he arrived at the synagogue and things were already getting “weird.”

“I showed up and was there for maybe two minutes and someone pepper-sprayed some people, including this one dude Cam Higby,” Horse said. “I got the backsplash right in the eyes. Oh god, I hated that so much.”

The Tracker has documented Higby’s assault here.

Horse said approximately an hour later things started getting more hostile and violent, with fights breaking out one after another.

“I was trying to photograph one of the assaults and this dude came up and tried to fuck with me,” Horse said. “He went to punch me in the face and then smacked the shit out of my gear. He told me I had to delete everything and then ran away from me.”

Horse posted a clip of the incident to the social media platform X, which shows an individual wearing a face covering, sunglasses and a baseball cap approaching Horse. The man can be heard telling the photojournalist, “Put your camera away” before striking at it with an open palm.

In a post on Instagram about the day’s events, Horse wrote that he was also pepper-sprayed a second time and that other journalists were targeted with violence as well.

“Even the insurrectionists weren’t this openly hostile to journalists,” wrote Horse, who covered the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “I saw four other journalists getting assaulted, harassed or robbed by the pro Israel supporters.”

The LAPD said in a news release that officers were investigating two reports of battery at the protest and that one individual had been arrested for having a spiked post. A spokesperson for the department told the Tracker via email June 27 that they have no further information.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment and additional details about the incident from Shay Horse.

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