Reporter hit in face, has phone stolen while interviewing voters in Los Angeles

January 26, 2019

On Jan. 26, 2019, reporter Tina-Desiree Berg was interviewing people outside of a regional meeting of the California Democratic Party when a woman upset by her questions stole her phone and hit her.

Berg is the West Coast correspondent for Washington Babylon, an investigative journalism site founded by veteran reporter Ken Silverstein in 2016.

Berg had gone to East LA Rising, a community center in east Los Angeles, where Democrats from the state’s 51st Assembly District were voting to elect a slate of delegates to represent them at the California Democratic Party’s state convention.

Berg told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she interviewed some of the delegate candidates and then began talking to voters outside East LA Rising. Tensions increased after a woman leading a group of voters into East LA Rising instructed them not to talk to Berg. One of the voters told Berg that they did not live in the district — leading Berg to suspect the possibility of voter fraud.

Berg said that she was asking what part of the district they were from and whether they supported the incumbent representative for the 51st District, when a woman stole her phone.

“This girl just literally comes out of nowhere and grabbed my phone and ran down the street,” Berg said. “Then she just punched me.”

Berg said that she did not see whether the woman struck her with an open or closed fist, but that the attack left a bruise and later a blood blister on her face. The screen of her iPhone was also cracked.

Her phone continued to stream throughout the altercation, and she later published an excerpt of the video on Washington Babylon.

“Hey, give me back my phone, lady!” Berg says in the video. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“I think you’re being a dick,” the woman says.

“I don’t care, you don’t get to run away with my phone,” Berg says.

Berg then reaches for the phone and the woman strikes her.

“You don’t get to grab my hand like that!” the woman says.

“You don’t get to slap me and steal my phone!” Berg says.

Berg said that a bystander called the police, and she provided a statement to the officers but did not seek to press charges against the woman.

Berg’s suspicions about voter fraud proved to be correct. A subsequent investigation by the California Democratic Party’s Compliance Review Commission found that nearly 100 votes had been cast by people who were either not registered as Democrats or not registered in the 51st Assembly District. On March 27, the California Democratic Party vacated results of the disputed Jan. 26 election and ordered that a new election be held on April 27.

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

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