A man hit a New York Post reporter with a piece of lumber during a demonstration to cut police funding at New York’s City Hall on July 12, 2020, the Post reported. The man was later arrested and charged with assault, police said.
The weeks-long “Occupy City Hall” protests in June drew hundreds of people who pressed elected leaders to slash $1 billion from the New York City Police Department’s annual operating budget of around $6 billion. Dozens of people camped outside City Hall during the lengthy demonstration, one of many nationwide sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Post reporter Kevin Sheehan was using his smartphone to film the demonstration at about 11 a.m. on July 12 from a public street, standing on the opposite side of a metal barrier, when a man with a piece of wood in his hand approached the journalist, demanding he stop recording.
“Put the fucking camera down!” the man yelled while swinging the board, which Sheehan caught on video. The assailant knocked Sheehan’s phone out of his hand and struck him in the face, the Post reported.
The attack left Sheehan with a headache and a swollen lip. The reporter walked away from the barricade but his assailant began to follow him, according to the Post.
Sheehan, who was wearing NYPD-issued press credentials around his neck, walked over to a group of police officers assembled nearby to report the incident. An officer told him that the attack didn’t qualify as an assault because no physical marks were visible, the Post reported on July 12.
“It’s not assault, it’s harassment,” the officer reportedly told Sheehan. Police didn’t initially make any arrests related to the attack.
But a spokesperson for the NYPD told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that Daniel Mayo, 32, of Queens, was arrested on July 14 in connection with the incident and charged with second-degree assault.
The spokesperson confirmed that the man portrayed in Sheehan’s video attacking the reporter with a piece of lumber matches Mayo’s mugshot. Attempts to reach Mayo and his attorney weren’t successful.
Sheehan declined to comment and the Post didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The New York City Council approved a budget deal on June 30 to cut about $1 billion from the NYPD, but some protesters continued camping at City Hall for weeks after the vote. By mid-July, the number of protesters there had dwindled to about 50, the Post reported, and the camp was cleared on July 22, according to The New York Times.
Activists in New York, Minneapolis and many other cities have called on lawmakers to “defund” law enforcement agencies following the deaths of Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, such as Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.