Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist shoved to the ground by LAPD

May 31, 2020

A Los Angeles Police Department officer shoved freelance photographer Barbara Davidson to the ground, breaking a camera lens, while she covered a protest in the city on May 31, 2020.

The protest was part of a wave of Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country sparked by the release of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest. Floyd was later pronounced dead in a hospital. The officer has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who were present face felony charges.

The demonstrators were taking a left turn on foot from West Third Street onto South Fairfax Avenue when a police line advanced. An officer yelled at Davidson to leave. “I said ‘Sir, I’m a journalist’ and they just kept on screaming,” Davidson told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. She also showed them the badge identifying her as a journalist, but it made no difference in their demeanor toward her.

The LAPD didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I realized in that moment that I wasn’t going to win this debate,” said Davidson, a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer who is currently a Guggenheim fellow. “I turned to walk away, and as I turned to walk away he shoved me with his baton and I went flying.” Davidson was wearing a helmet.

Fellow freelance journalist Jason Ryan witnessed the incident. “They wouldn’t even give her a minute to get up,” he told the Tracker. At 5:06 p.m. Davidson tweeted a photo of herself with the caption, “I got pushed from behind by the ⁦@911LAPD⁩ after I told them I was a journalist. I was hit so hard that I went flying before crashing to the ground and hitting the back of my head on a fire hydrant. Protesters picked me up preventing me from being crushed by the ‘line’.”

Davidson said she had the symptoms of a concussion but had to delay seeing her doctor due to COVID-19. The lens of her Hasselblad camera was damaged in the fall and needed to be shipped to New Jersey for repair at her own expense.

Davidson has covered Los Angeles for 13 years and said she never had an encounter like that with an officer. “I was specifically targeted because I was a journalist and that’s why I decided to speak up,” she told the Tracker.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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

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