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Reporter pepper sprayed, arrested amid protests in Des Moines

May 31, 2020

Police pepper-sprayed and arrested Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri while she was covering protests in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 31, 2020.

Protests that began in Minnesota on May 26 have spread across the country, sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest the day before. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

In a video recorded while in the back of a police transport vehicle, Sahouri said she was reporting on a demonstration at Merle Hay Mall when she was arrested.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Sahouri tweeted that police deployed tear gas, forcing all the protesters to run into the street. Sahouri said in her recording that she and her boyfriend were running with protesters when he was struck by a tear gas canister.

“As I was seeing if his leg was O.K., police came closer and we went around the corner and I was saying, ‘I’m press. I’m press. I’m press,’” Sahouri said.

An officer responded, “I didn’t ask,” before spraying her twice in the face with pepper spray, the Register reported. Officers then handcuffed her using zip ties, Sahouri said in the video.

In footage captured by KCCI 8 News, Sahouri can be seen sitting on a curb, hands cuffed behind her back.

“I’m just doing my job as a journalist,” Sahouri said in her recording. “I’m just out here reporting as I see.”

Sahouri was taken to the Polk County Jail, where she was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts. She was released from police custody shortly after 11 p.m., the Register reported.

The Des Moines Police Department did not immediately respond to requests 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.

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

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