U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student journalist injured in targeted attack at UCLA protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 1, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/David Swanson

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in an encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles, on May 1, 2024. Early that morning, counterprotesters attacked student journalist Catherine Hamilton and three other journalists for UCLA’s Daily Bruin.

— REUTERS/David Swanson
May 1, 2024

Student journalist Catherine Hamilton and three colleagues were assaulted by counterprotesters while reporting on a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the early hours of May 1, 2024. Hamilton was briefly hospitalized following the attack, in which she was repeatedly punched and another student journalist beaten and kicked.

UCLA’s student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, reported that protesters had erected the encampment on campus April 25 to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war and demand that the UC system divest from companies that invest in weapons manufacturers for the Israeli military.

As the protest neared its seventh day, a group of approximately 100 pro-Israeli counterprotesters attempted to storm the encampment, the Bruin reported, tearing down the barricades surrounding it and shooting fireworks inside.

Hamilton, news editor for the Bruin, told the Los Angeles Times that shortly before 3:30 a.m., counterprotesters started chanting her name while shining a light on her, and that she recognized the leader of the group as someone who had previously harassed her.

The individual directed the others to encircle Hamilton and three other Bruin journalists, Hamilton told the Times. The group then began spraying the journalists with a chemical irritant while continuing to shine lights on them and chanting Hamilton’s name. As she tried to break free, Hamilton said the assailants punched her repeatedly in the chest and abdomen, and another student journalist was beaten and kicked on the ground.

Hamilton told the Times that the Bruin reporters were instructed to travel in pairs, report from outside the student encampment and leave if the protest became unsafe.

“We expected to be harassed by counterprotesters,” Hamilton said. “I truly did not expect to be directly assaulted.”

The Times reported that the attack lasted approximately five minutes, and the journalists returned to the Bruin newsroom afterward. Hamilton went to the hospital when she experienced difficulty breathing and standing, but reported in a post on social media that she was released several hours later.

“Wasn’t expecting the night to end like this, but please continue following the Daily Bruin’s coverage on the pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA and the violence toward it,” she wrote. “Amid the assaults on reporters, student journalism will remain so important.”

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