U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Salon reporter assaulted while documenting Virginia gubernatorial campaign rally

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 19, 2021
Burke, Virginia


Was the journalist targeted?
October 19, 2021

Zachary Petrizzo, an investigative reporter for Salon, was assaulted by a man while documenting a campaign rally for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin in Burke, Virginia, on Oct. 19, 2021.

Petrizzo told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he had arrived to cover the event and was speaking with Youngkin supporters and counterprotesters supporting his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, some of whom had set up a large inflatable chicken in the likeness of former President Donald Trump.

“This guy comes by initially, starts revving his engine in front of these McAuliffe supporters, these older women, turns his wheels towards them, and starts yelling at these women like he has road rage” Petrizzo said. He said the man drove away but quickly returned, and turned his ire toward the reporter.

“I’m standing pretty far away on a grassy patch and he approaches me and strikes me with his left hand, and strikes my camera and my hands,” Petrizzo said. “The whole thing caught me pretty off guard just because I didn’t think he’d lunge and actually strike.”

In a video posted to Twitter following the incident, a man can be seen approaching Petrizzo and shouting, “Get rid of that thing! You stupid fool, get rid of it!” referring to his camera. The man then swings at Petrizzo’s hand and cellphone, which he was using to film.

He told the Tracker he was wearing a large press badge at the time of the attack and that his phone was not damaged.

Petrizzo wrote later that evening that he had filed a police report about the incident and that Fairfax County police were able to identify the man as a resident of nearby Annandale. Petrizzo told the Tracker he does not plan to press charges, but said he was concerned about the political climate that contributed to the assault.

“It highlights a political temperature that seemingly after Jan. 6 has continued to ratchet only louder and higher, in terms of these pro-Trump events,” Petrizzo said. “You really see the anger still that perhaps Trump sparked, but that is very much the Republican base: upset and willing to go to these extreme measures, whether it’s yelling at old women, revving your engine or striking a reporter.”

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