U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist’s camera slapped away, blocked at rally against defunding Seattle Police Department

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 9, 2020
Seattle, Washington


Was the journalist targeted?
August 9, 2020

An individual attending a rally slapped away a freelance photojournalist’s camera as he photographed an Aug. 9, 2020, rally in Seattle, Washington, according to the photojournalist and a video of the incident.

Noah Riffe, 20, a student and freelance photographer, had been covering protests that began in Seattle in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Riffe told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was on assignment for Turkish news platform Anadolu Images on Aug. 9, photographing a rally against the defunding of the Seattle Police Department.

The early afternoon rally outside Seattle City Hall attracted city officials and pro-police demonstrators, as well as anti-police counterprotesters, some of whom were dressed in black clothing with black face coverings, a tactic known as black bloc that is used to conceal a person’s identity.

Riffe said that the street directly in front of City Hall had been closed and barricaded, and the counterprotesters were gathered just outside of the barricaded area. Riffe said he saw a pro-police protester leave the contained area and approach some counterprotesters, dumping a bottle of water over a flag they had been burning. Riffe followed, also leaving the contained area in front of City Hall.

Riffe said that at that point, he was directly behind the pro-police protester who had dumped the water, following her and taking pictures of the counterprotesters pushing back on the woman.

One of the counterprotesters then “reached their hand out and smacked my camera and tried to knock it to the ground,” said Riffe.

Riffe said he then took a step back and “tried to have a conversation” and explain he was a member of the media, but that the person who hit his camera said he “didn’t care.”

The brief altercation was captured on video by Seattle reporter Jason Rantz. In the video, Riffe can be seen in a yellow shirt and holding a camera, with the woman in a bright green shirt; both are surrounded by counterprotesters. One of the individuals reaches out quickly and slaps the camera out of Riffe’s hand. Riffe catches it, and briefly yells back.

Riffe said that his equipment was not damaged and he was not physically hurt, but that after the confrontation he left the area, as the counterprotesters kept pushing him back and out of the way as he tried to photograph.

Riffe said that Seattle police officers, while present at the scene, did not intervene. The Seattle Police Department did not respond to a request from the Tracker for comment.

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