U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist’s camera snatched, smashed during clashes at LA protest

Incident Details


A protester blocks the camera of photojournalist Nick Stern at a pro-Palestinian protest in Los Angeles on June 23, 2024. Later, a pro-Israeli protester snatched the video camera away and threw it on the ground, breaking it.

June 23, 2024

Independent photojournalist Nick Stern’s video camera was stolen and broken while he was 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.

Stern, whose work is largely published in British outlets, told the Tracker that he was wearing press credentials on a lanyard and was easily identifiable as a journalist by the two cameras strapped around his neck.

But that may have put him more at risk, he said, as the attacks appeared to be targeting journalists. “I think it would have been safer if I hadn’t,” he told the Tracker.

Stern said he and journalist Tina-Desiree Berg were standing on a grassy embankment when a pro-Israeli protester carrying a large yellow flag came up to them and tried to block his shot.

Another pro-Israeli protester shoved Berg off the embankment, then grabbed Stern’s video camera as he was recording. Stern shared the video of the snatch with the Tracker.

Stern said he chased the protester, who threw the camera down on the ground. Stern retrieved it, but the camera, a DJI Osmo Pocket 3 worth about $600, had a broken lens and battery pack, rendering it unusable.

Stern told the Tracker that as of June 28 he hadn’t yet reported his broken camera to police.

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.

Stern told the Tracker that he plans to continue covering protests, but after witnessing the assaults on journalists on June 23, he expects to carry a Taser with him for protection.

“I think we’ve got to a point now where a journalist will get significantly injured or even possibly killed at a protest event,” he told the Tracker. “This needs to stop. As journalists, we need to do what we’re out there doing.”

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