U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student photojournalist knocked down by police at UT Austin protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 24, 2024
Austin, Texas


Was the journalist targeted?
Reuters/Nuri Vallbona

Law enforcement officers confront pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Texas at Austin on April 24, 2024. Student photojournalist Manoo Sirivelu was knocked down and pushed multiple times by law enforcement while covering the clashes.

— Reuters/Nuri Vallbona
April 24, 2024

Student photojournalist Manoo Sirivelu was pushed and knocked to the ground multiple times by law enforcement while covering a police crackdown on a pro-Palestinian protest April 24, 2024, on the University of Texas at Austin campus, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Sirivelu, the associate photo editor at UT Austin’s student newspaper The Daily Texan, told the Tracker he arrived at the protest at 1:15 p.m. and saw state troopers as well as officers from both the Austin Police Department and the UT Police Department.

Sirivelu’s photo editor, who was also there, told him that she and another photographer had been pushed repeatedly by police on horses, so he said they were on “high alert.”

Police deployed riot shields and batons and tackled protesters, pushing them off the school’s Main Mall lawn. Sirivelu was photographing arrests when a Texas Department of Public Safety officer accidentally hit him in the chest with his fists while wrapping his arms around a protester to arrest her.

Sirivelu was also pushed into chains that surround the lawn as the troopers advanced. “My legs were getting crushed against the chains,” he said. “I just fell on my butt. I said, ‘Stop, stop, the chains,’ they paused for a moment and I made my way out,” he recalled. The experience of being pushed into the chains was scary, Sirivelu said, so he took a break in a building near the lawn.

After returning, Sirivelu was standing nearby when UT Austin police officers tackled a protester to the ground. One of them then pushed him down.

“The guy right in front of me shoved my chest,” he said. “I fell. I was lying on the ground, police in front of me. I was pretty shocked when I fell on the floor. The shock came from being on the same level and space as the girl who was being arrested and zip-tied. I was looking her straight in the eyes. I sat up, made some space, found the gap between legs, and took that photo.” The image was later published by The Guardian.

Sirivelu told the Tracker that he did not suffer any injuries and his camera was undamaged.

But he stayed farther away from law enforcement for the rest of the day. “I am definitely more situationally aware now,” he said. And after working that day with no press identification, he and his colleagues at The Daily Texan wore press tags the next time they went out to report.

“If I had to do the same thing again, despite them having pushed me down, I would,” Sirivelu told the Tracker. “There’s no other way I would have gotten that picture.”

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