U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter assaulted while filming looting in Philadelphia

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 27, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
October 27, 2020

Following protests in western Philadelphia, TheBlaze reporter Elijah Schaffer was assaulted while filming looting inside a discount store on Oct. 27, 2020.

Schaffer, who reports for TheBlaze, which was founded by conservative political commentator Glenn Beck and is a part of Blaze Media, was covering protests that broke out in response to the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year old Black man who was fatally shot one day earlier by two Philadelphia police officers.

According to news reports, protests that had begun peacefully the night of the shooting, to demand justice for Wallace, were disrupted by violence and looting “that officials said were caused by people taking advantage” of the demonstration. On Oct. 27, the second night of protests, The Washington Post reported that law enforcement “took a more aggressive tack,” using lines of riot police to block demonstrators who had gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia.

As the protests spread out, some people targeted "big-box stores" in the Port Richmond area and broke into places such as Walmart, according to The Washington Post and Schaffer.

Schaffer told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he followed a group of protesters headed from a nearby police precinct toward Port Richmond, running past officers who were trying to stop him. He said he "ran with the looters trying to document what was happening," which led him into a Five Below, a specialty discount store, at Sepviva Street and East Butler Street. He did not have any press markings displayed at the time, he said, noting that he had not found it "very useful to mark yourself as press."

In a video shared on Twitter, Schaffer films people grabbing things from inside the store when someone approaches him and says, "Hey bro, stop recording," to which he responds, "I'm not recording faces. I'm doing the floor."

He said he was accused of being a white supremacist several times and that he felt targeted for being white. In a video captured by Daily Caller reporter Shelby Talcott, Schaffer can be seen being confronted by several men and backing up before they start attacking him.

Schaffer told the Tracker that his attackers tried to steal his phone, and one of them pulled out a gun. "Another guy punched me right in the face and they started kicking and punching me a couple of times in the head and the gut,” he said.

According to Schaffer, the attackers stopped after a young Black man intervened.

After the incident, Schaffer went on camera to recount the attack. "I was jumped," he said with a bloodied lip. "I might go to the hospital I think to get stitches."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny tweeted the next afternoon, "The looting that has taken place is distressing, and it is clear that many of these folks are taking advantage of the situation, harming our businesses and communities, and doing a great disservice to those who want to protest the death of Walter Wallace, Jr."

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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