U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist violently arrested while documenting UT Austin protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 24, 2024
Austin, Texas


Was the journalist targeted?

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Texas Department of Public Safety
Detention Date
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?
Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

Photojournalist Joseph Rushmore, pictured at center here, was violently arrested while covering clashes between law enforcement and pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Texas at Austin on April 24, 2024.

— Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune
April 24, 2024

Freelance photojournalist Joseph Rushmore was violently arrested on April 24, 2024, by Texas Department of Public Safety officers and charged with misdemeanor trespassing while documenting a pro-Palestinian protest on the University of Texas at Austin campus, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Rushmore arrived at the university’s South Lawn between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., he told the Tracker, and saw that law enforcement had cordoned off the lawn and formed a ring around it, surrounded by protesters.

The protest generally seemed peaceful, Rushmore said, and for about an hour, law enforcement made periodic arrests of single protesters.

Then, he said, state troopers formed a line and started using their shields to push the crowd on one side of the lawn, where Rushmore was standing. He was pushed into an alcove on the side of a building and fell on top of protesters who had been pushed along with him.

“Their shields are on my back,” Rushmore recounted. “I’m crushing three or four people under me. I’m yelling, ‘We’re crushed, we can’t move.’”

One of the state troopers pulled Rushmore back into the police line. “At first I thought they were trying to relieve the crush that was happening,” he said. Then a trooper put a knee on Rushmore’s back, shoved his face into the ground and zip-tied his hands.

“I yell, ‘I’m press, I’m press, I’m press,’” Rushmore said. “No response. So I stop talking. I realize I’m getting arrested.”

Rushmore was held for 30 minutes in a law enforcement van and then taken to Travis County Jail, where he was held overnight.

At 8 a.m. the following day, Rushmore said, “They come and get me and a group of four protesters; they say, ‘OK, your charges are dropped’; they give us our stuff back; and we’re out the doors.” His camera equipment, which the officers had confiscated overnight, did not appear to have been damaged.

At least one other journalist was arrested that day on campus.

Rushmore said that he believes that law enforcement cracked down simply to prevent the protest from occurring.

“It felt like they were trying to make a point: if you come and do this, we will arrest you,” he said. “I was targeted not for being press but for being there.”

Rushmore told the Tracker that he had a large camera around his neck but had not been wearing any visible press identification at the time of his arrest, adding: “I feel like the same constitution that protects me as a journalist is also protecting the right to nonviolently protest — which is exactly what was happening. To see that level of nonantagonistic gathering assaulted in the way it was, was pretty astounding.”

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