U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Russian reporter assaulted by police in chaotic June 1 crackdowns in DC

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 1, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
June 1, 2020

Nicole Roussell, a reporter for Sputnik, a Russian state-owned outlet, was struck by multiple crowd-control munitions, shoved and pepper sprayed by law enforcement while covering protests against police violence in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020, a chaotic day for demonstrations throughout the nation’s capital.

Roussell told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she had been filming what she described as peaceful protests near the White House and Lafayette Square when police in riot gear began to fire rubber bullets and mace at the crowd, brandish their batons and use their shields to shove people.

Rousell said she did not come out unscathed: She told the Tracker she got hit with rubber bullets, with her employer sharing images of her injuries on Twitter; caught in the mace, despite yelling, “I’m press! I’m press!” to police, holding up her press badge and donning a reflective orange vest at the time; and, at a moment when police advanced on the crowd, had an officer push her with his shield, causing her to fall and hit her elbow, ribs and leg on the ground.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation issued a statement on the incident the following day, writing, in part, “We regard the deliberate attack on Nicole Roussell, a producer at the Sputnik News Agency, in Washington on June 1, 2020, as an unfriendly step on the part of the US authorities, as well as a flagrant violation of their international legal obligations to ensure the safety of journalists and their unhindered work.”

D.C. is notable for the large number of different police forces that operate within its borders. The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia also did not respond to requests for comment on these incidents as of press time.

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.

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.

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