Reuters journalists Andy Sullivan and Jonathan Landay were assaulted by unknown individuals on June 1, 2020 while covering protests in Washington, D.C.
Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the country after a viral video showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Sullivan, a White House correspondent for the outlet, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker the demonstrations that he and Landay encountered on June 1 were nonviolent. He said they witnessed “no vandalism or anything of that nature.”
But at about 8 p.m., a group of unknown individuals approached Sullivan and Landay near the intersection of 14th Street NW and Rhode Island Avenue NW, Sullivan said. One of the individuals asked “in an aggressive way” if Sullivan was a police officer.
“I approached him to start a discussion and maybe get an interview,” Sullivan said in an email to the Tracker. “Bad idea!”
Voice of America journalist Ani Chkhikvadze was near the scene and captured video of three males wearing black T-shirts swinging their fists at Landay as he ducked away from the assailants.
Chkhikvadze, who reports for VOA’s Georgian language service, tweeted that she accidentally caught footage of the attack while she covered the protests. She posted two versions of the video, and in the longer one Landay is heard explaining that the individuals who tried to punch him asked “What are you doing down here?”
In the video, Landay tells Chkhikvadze that he replied: “I’m here to tell your story.” The assailants began swinging for Landay after he replied, Chkhikvadze wrote.
In the video, Landay is seen wearing a black flak vest with “PRESS” emblazoned in white block letters on the front, and he has press credentials hanging from a lanyard hanging around his neck.
Sullivan told the Tracker that the assailants took a “few swings” at him and at Landay but that ultimately “no damage was done.” He said that other protesters stepped in to intervene, giving the journalists time to retreat.
“I started all this by accident by trying to interview these guys,” Sullivan said in a retweet of Chkhikvadze’s video. “Sorry @JonathanLanday!”
Sullivan told the Tracker that throughout the evening of June 1 he saw the same group of individuals assault a cyclist and confront motorists.
Landay, a national security correspondent for Reuters who has reported from conflict zones, told the Tracker that he witnessed the assailants “pushing and shoving” people several blocks away on T Street NW between 14th and 15th streets NW.
Landay said he tried to point out the assailants to Metropolitan Police Department officers who were cordoning off 14th Street, informing them that he had video recordings of his own assault. But he said police “just ignored me.”
The Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.