U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist shoved, camera equipment damaged at NYC protest

Incident Details


Independent photojournalist Michael Nigro, left, asks a New York City police officer for his badge number. The officer had grabbed Nigro’s camera and pushed him into another journalist while the two were documenting a protest in Brooklyn on May 18, 2024.

May 18, 2024

Independent photojournalist Michael Nigro was shoved and his camera equipment damaged by a New York City police officer while documenting a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Brooklyn on May 18, 2024.

Brooklyn Paper reported that the rally marking Nakba Day — which commemorates the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 — has been held in the Bay Ridge neighborhood for years without incident.

Nigro told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he has documented the rally six or seven times in years prior and described the demonstration as a generally family-friendly, community event. He said that the police response was markedly different this year, with officers in riot gear and from the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, a heavily armored group used for crowd control, present from the beginning.

Shortly after protesters took to the street, Nigro said, officers made the first arrest of the day. Nigro said he filmed the detainment and had complied with orders to step back when an officer assaulted him.

“I didn’t see him coming,” Nigro said, “he just came over and smacked my camera. With the vibration in the camera and the sound that I heard, I thought, ‘He just broke my lens.’ Then I saw that the hood was cracked and thankfully the lens was not.”

In footage of the incident captured by another photojournalist, a commanding officer can be seen grabbing Nigro’s camera and using it to shove him back and to the side, striking the camera against another photographer in the process. As the first officer walks away, a second can be seen pushing Nigro backward.

Nigro followed the commanding officer to ask him for his name and badge number, and the officer identified himself as Jesse Lance, deputy chief executive officer patrol borough Brooklyn South. Nigro told the Tracker that Lance has interfered with members of the press documenting protests multiple times in recent months, and that officers routinely obstruct photojournalists.

“The tactic of late with the NYPD and the press is to block us from covering it,” Nigro said. “They’ll stand in front of your camera and put their hands in front of it or just push you back and back. Or, the newest tactic has been taking the press and detaining them, sometimes flexy-cuffing them, and then letting them go.”

Independent photojournalist Josh Pacheco was detained that day in the “catch-and-release” fashion Nigro described. Independent videographer Sam Seligson was also arrested and released the following morning on three charges. Nigro called such tactics extremely troubling.

“They are preventing us from doing our work and from documenting the history that is happening in front of us,” Nigro told the Tracker. “It seems that they are just looking at us as the enemy, which we’re not.”

In the meantime, Nigro added, journalists covering pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York are banding together to watch each others’ backs and document police aggressions against them. “There needs to be some kind of pushback and accountability because if we do not it’s only going to continue and likely get worse.”

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

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