U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter struck with pepper balls during live broadcast on Omaha protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 30, 2020
Location
Omaha, Nebraska

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Unknown
May 30, 2020

Jessika Eidson, a reporter for CBS-affiliate KMTV, was hit by projectiles fired by police while reporting live on protests in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 30, 2020, according to footage of the incident.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since the end of May.

Eidson was reporting on the second night of protests in Omaha, which had moved as the night progressed from 72nd and Dodge Streets to downtown, according to Eidson’s tweets and other news reports.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m., Eidson tweeted protesters had gathered near the police headquarters, where she observed tear gas and fireworks.

Eidson then went live on air to report from the scene near Howard and South 12th Streets. In a video of the incident, Eidson says her crew got a “very painful” whiff of tear gas earlier. She reports she just saw a man throw something at police, just as a bang from a firecracker can be heard. The video feed cuts to a view of the city.

Almost immediately Eidson exclaims, “OK, we gotta go though! I just got hit!” Eidson tweeted that Omaha Police shot at her and her colleague with pepper balls.

It isn’t clear whether Eidson’s crew was targeted by police. “We were several feet away from any officer or protester,” Eidson tweeted. “We had a large tripod, camera and bright light showing we were doing a newscast when I was directly struck twice.”

At a press conference earlier that night, Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer said police deployed tear gas and pepper balls after the protest was declared an unlawful assembly. Lt. Sherie Thomas, a spokesperson for the Omaha Police Department, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the department was conducting an ongoing review of the protests, but didn’t comment specifically about the incident.

Eidson and KMTV didn’t respond to the Tracker’s requests for comment.

In a video update from her home an hour after the incident, Eidson says she and her cameraman were both safe, but she had a large welt on her leg where she was hit.

“I’m doing OK. I have little bit of a cough right now,” she says in the video. “I think I'm going to go inside and maybe drink some milk and see if that helps.”

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 Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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