U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter shoved, punched during anti-mask demonstration in Traverse City, Michigan

Incident Details

August 1, 2022 - Update

One man sentenced in assault of reporter at Michigan anti-mask demonstration; charges against another dropped

On Aug. 1, 2022, a prosecutor dropped the charges against one of the two men accused of assaulting Traverse City Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy during an anti-mask demonstration almost a year prior.

Quealy told the Record-Eagle he was documenting a Citizens Liberating Michigan meeting at a park in Traverse City, Michigan, in August 2021. An organizer of the event identified him and asked attendees to block him from reporting, and shortly after multiple ment shoved Quealy into a fence and punched him in the face. Two men were charged in connection with the assault that September.

According to the outlet, Grand Traverse County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Rachel Henry dropped the misdemeanor assault and battery charge against one of the men — Joseph Michael Welsh — on Aug. 1.

“After further review of the evidence, criminal prosecution is no longer in the best interests of justice,” the motion to dismiss the charges states. The motion was granted the following day.

The second man, Michael Francis Adams, pleaded no-contest to the charges and was sentenced in November 2021 to a year of probation and five days of community service.

September 10, 2021 - Update

Two men charged with assaulting reporter during anti-mask demonstration in Michigan

On Sept. 10, 2021, two men were charged with assaulting Traverse City Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy during an anti-mask demonstration near Traverse City, Michigan.

Quealy said he was shoved into a fence and punched in the face after an organizer of the event identified him and asked attendees to block him to prevent him from documenting the demonstration.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg authorized misdemeanor assault charges against two local residents, The Record-Eagle reported.

“The issue is people are so passionate about their feelings about Covid and masks and mandates, it is leading to violence in some cases,” Moeggenberg added. “By me charging this case, it speaks for itself.”

Quealy declined to comment when reached via email.

August 26, 2021

Traverse City Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy was shoved to the ground and punched in the face while covering an anti-mask demonstration near Traverse City, Michigan, on Aug. 26, 2021.

Quealy told the Record-Eagle that he arrived at the Silver Lake Recreation Area at 6:15 p.m. to cover an event organized by a group called Citizens Liberating Michigan. When the event began, one of the organizers announced to the crowd of 80 to 100 that filming would not be permitted, and specifically addressed Quealy.

“There’s no reporting, Brendan,” the organizer said, according to the Record-Eagle. “We don’t authorize that. So, you guys feel like standing in front of him? Because we’re on private property here because we have that rented. That would be great.”

Two men approached him, Quealy told the outlet, telling him to leave and pushing him. One of the men then shoved him into a wooden fence and punched him in the face with both fists before others in the group intervened to stop the attack.

The Record-Eagle reported that the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

“We are interviewing witnesses and a report will be forwarded to the prosecutor’s office probably Monday or Tuesday,” Sheriff Tom Bensley told the newspaper. “I know the concern you have.

“There are some people out there that are not happy with the news outlets. We’ve had two incidents in a short period of time,” Bensley said, referencing the June 7 assault of a television crew at an event with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for further information.

Quealy declined to comment when reached via email, citing the sheriff’s ongoing investigation. He told the Detroit Free Press: “My job is to chase the news, to accurately report it and that's what I was doing.”

Record-Eagle Executive Editor Nathan Payne denounced the assault and the rise in aggression toward journalists doing their jobs in a statement to the outlet.

“Our journalists have an important job rooted in public service,” he said. “They should be able to go to work without fear of being attacked for doing nothing more than asking questions, gathering facts and telling truths.”

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