Police fired pepper balls at freelance photographer Andrew Jasiura and an officer tried to grab his camera while he was reporting on protests in Buffalo, New York, on May 30, 2020.
The demonstration in Buffalo’s Niagara Square was one of many such protests held in the days following the May 26 release of a video that showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest. Floyd was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Jasiura told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the protest was peaceful until a car drove through the crowd, who responded by dragging the driver from the vehicle. Police began to attempt to clear the square by firing nonlethal projectiles and advancing in a line. One officer asked Jasiura why he was taking pictures, and Jasiura said he pointed to his bright yellow vest that said “PRESS” in English and Cantonese (Jasiura had previously covered demonstrations in Hong Kong).
The photographer subsequently tried to come to the aid of a black man who had been hit with mace and pepper balls.
“He was just pouring mucus out of his face, out of his nose, his mouth, his eyes. His whole face was red,” Jasiura said. Jasiura tried to wash the protester’s eyes out with saline spray, at which point officers shot pepper balls at him, even though his press vest was clearly visible.
Jasiura said he approached one officer to try to explain that he was a photojournalist, but that officer fired more pepper balls at him.
“When I took pictures of his nameplate, he swiped up my camera to try to knock it out of my hands, and then shot me another 10-plus times in the legs,” Jasiura said. He caught a photo of the officer during the encounter.
Jasiura said his camera was not damaged and he did not suffer serious injuries beyond bruises to his leg. He said he is considering taking legal action against the Buffalo Police Department, but added that he does not want to be the center of the story.
The Buffalo Police Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting damage of equipment and multiple journalists arrested or struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas while covering related protests across the country. Find all of these cases here.