U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist pushed multiple times at protest outside LA synagogue

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 23, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?

Protesters and counterprotesters gathered outside Los Angeles’ Adas Torah synagogue on June 23, 2024. Freelance photojournalist David Swanson was on assignment covering clashes between demonstrators when he was shoved multiple times.

June 23, 2024

Freelance photojournalist David Swanson was pushed multiple times 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.

Swanson told the Tracker that he was on assignment for Agence France-Presse and documented various skirmishes that broke out in the street. He said he was wearing a lanyard with a press pass issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and had his LAPD-issued credentials in his bag.

In footage captured by photojournalist Shay Horse, Swanson, in a gray shirt, can be seen moving in to photograph a young man whose face is covered in blood following a brawl. The man then grabs Swanson’s lens and shoves it into his face and to the side.

“That gentleman was there in support of the Jewish neighborhood and he got into a scuffle and he was bloodied when he got up,” Swanson said. “I got close with my camera. He saw me and I think he reached forward a couple of times, grabbed my lens and pushed it away from my face.”

He said he had almost forgotten about the incident, as he had been so focused on getting the photo, though he added that others attempted to interfere as well. “There was a person — who I think we all had trouble with — that was pushing me and didn’t want me to photograph the bloodied person,” Swanson said.

Swanson told the Tracker that he was shoved by individuals at the demonstration at least once or twice more that day, but that he was uninjured. He said that anyone who was documenting the day’s event was being targeted with violence.

“The gist of it is that in the current climate, we’re getting attacked more by protesters,” he said. “Nobody tried to take my camera, but I know some of the reporters who use their cellphones for video had their cameras stolen.”

The Tracker has documented the theft of at least four journalists’ devices at the demonstrations that day.

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.

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