Documentary photographer Joey Scott was shoved to the ground by police officers while documenting reproductive rights protests in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2022.
Protests broke out across the country following the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that morning, which established that the right to abortion is guaranteed under the right to privacy.
The first protests in LA began outside a federal courthouse around noon, the Los Angeles Times reported, and continued into the night. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented the assaults of at least six journalists in the city that night.
L.A. Taco reporter Lexis-Olivier Ray told the Tracker that he and Scott had followed protesters as they attempted to get onto the highway. After demonstrators exited the highway, Los Angeles Police Department officers advanced toward them to clear the area.
In a tweet posted at around 7:45 p.m., Scott wrote that he had just been shoved to the ground by an LAPD officer.
In a video posted in a subsequent tweet, multiple officers can be heard shouting, “Leave the area! Leave the area!” Both Scott and a second journalist — L.A. Taco reporter Lexis-Olivier Ray — can be heard identifying themselves as press in response. Scott was not immediately available to provide comment.
At approximately 0:06 in the clip, an officer steps forward and says, “It doesn’t matter, you guys gotta get going.”
“I’m press, it does matter,” Scott can be heard responding. “I’m on a public sidewalk.”
At that same moment, one of the officers pushed Ray backward. The Tracker has documented that incident here.
In footage posted by photojournalist Josh Pacheco, Scott can be seen stepping back onto the sidewalk and taking two steps before an LAPD officer appears to push him backward with his baton, sending him sprawling into a car a few feet behind him.
“What wasn’t captured in the footage was the attitude: the blatant disregard and hostility the officers had to our legal rights to be there,” Scott told the Tracker. “The more that we identified ourselves and pushed back on their unlawful commands, the more hostile and, obviously, more violent they got toward us.”
In footage from the incident, “press” labels are visible on Scott’s backpack and helmet. In a tweet thread two days later, Scott wrote that his body and ribs were still sore and that his helmet was damaged from the fall.
“Going into this weekend, I was like: Cool. We have these new laws and protections, this should be a lot easier than previous experiences,” Scott said. “And it was the complete opposite. Worse than before the laws were enacted and the supposed training and reform that the department has done.”
In October 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 98, which was written in order to ensure the rights of journalists while covering protests or other civic actions, according to Spectrum News 1. The law states that “law enforcement shall not intentionally assault, interfere with, or obstruct journalists” and explicitly exempts members of the press from dispersal orders.
The Los Angeles Police Department did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Find press freedom violations documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker at reproductive rights demonstrations across the U.S. here.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include comment from Joey Scott.