Lucas Jackson, a staff photographer for Reuters at the time, was hit by law enforcement with a pepper ball while covering protests against police violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 30, 2020.
Jackson told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he and other photojournalists had been documenting people throwing firecrackers at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fifth Precinct and breaking into nearby local businesses on the night of May 29 and into the morning of May 30. At roughly 1 a.m. on May 30, he said, officers began to fire tear gas at protesters who had gathered in the street outside a Wells Fargo bank on Nicollet Avenue.
As the photographers were taking pictures of the crowd dispersing, Jackson said, officers started to fire less lethal weapons at their group. Jackson was hit with a large-caliber rubber bullet on the rear end, leaving a “massive” bruise, he said. Photographer Philip Montgomery was hit in the chest, Jackson said, as were other journalists in their group. Montgomery did not respond to emails seeking comment on the incident.
Jackson and the group left the scene and walked back to their cars, only to find that their tires had been punctured, an incident the Tracker has documented here.
Spokespeople for both the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis declined to comment, telling the Tracker in separate emails that the “incident is part of ongoing litigation.”
Jackson told the Tracker that he and his fellow photographers had been standing on the sidewalk, off to the side from the protesters, when the police started to fire the less lethal weapons. “We were all carrying cameras and wearing helmets, so it was fairly obvious we were not generic protesters,” he said.
In addition to his photographic equipment and helmet, Jackson said he was wearing his press credential and a gas mask, and that other journalists in the group were wearing vests that said “press” in big letters. “I don’t know if we were specifically targeted, but they knew that we weren’t protesters and they still shot at us,” Jackson said. “It’s the only place I’ve been where I’ve had the police specifically aim at me with their less lethal stuff.”
Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May. They were sparked by 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.
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 these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.