Raleigh_newsroom damage_0530

Three Raleigh newsrooms damaged during protests on May 30

May 30, 2020

The offices of INDY Week, The News & Observer, and ABC11 in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, were damaged during protests in the city on May 30, 2020.

Alternative weekly newspaper INDY Week reported extensive damage to its newsroom, while ABC11 and The News & Observer newspaper both had windows smashed as protests stretched late into the night.

The protests in Raleigh echoed demonstrations across the country sparked by a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The newsrooms in Raleigh were damaged late in the first major day of protesting in the city. Demonstrations had been peaceful through the day, but late in the evening, after police began using tear gas to disperse crowds, a small group of people began destroying property in the city’s downtown.

INDY Week Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss told U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she had returned to the office while covering the protests to wash her face off and get some water, after she had been caught up in tear gas. She was in the back of the ground-floor office near the water cooler, shortly before 10 p.m., when she heard the window shatter, she said.

She sank down to the floor and called her editor, before she moved out toward the front of the office and saw a brick had been thrown through the window, she said. She posted about the damage on Twitter.

Tauss said she tried to leave the office then, but when she stepped outside, there was more tear gas in the street so she came back inside. She was in the hallway when she heard someone enter the office and ducked into the basement to hide. After waiting for a few minutes, she got a text from another journalist who was outside and who told her it was clear for her to leave. She posted on Twitter at that point that it appeared that someone had tried to take water, but no computers were missing.

Later that night, according to Tauss, somebody entered the office and caused more extensive damage. Large windows were entirely smashed. Couches in the office were set on fire, setting off the sprinkler system. While other equipment was damaged by the water, her desktop computer went missing, she said.

At The News & Observer, business reporter Aaron Sánchez-Guerra saw windows at the entrance to the offices being smashed by a small group of people who broke off from a larger group that had been destroying property and looting in the area.

Sánchez-Guerra told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he recognized one of the individuals as a protester whom he had interviewed a short time earlier. He said that he shouted at the group to stop, that they were journalists. The protester appeared to recognize him, and they left.

The newspaper didn’t appear to be targeted, but was just one of many businesses that were impacted that night, according to members of the publication’s staff. Many nearby restaurants sustained damage and were looted, Sánchez-Guerra said. “We were just another open target.”

Two windows at The News & Observer were damaged during the protest, according to Betsy Womble, executive assistant to the publisher and president of the paper. The damage was reported to police, but there have been no developments with the report, she said.

The studio of a television news station nearby also was damaged during the protests. A reporter for ABC11, Bridget Condon, posted videos on Twitter showing windows smashed out on the station’s street-level studio. Fragments of glass littered the sidewalk outside.

ABC11 didn’t respond to requests for comment about the damage.

The three offices were just some of many businesses damaged in the city. According to an article in the News & Observer, “nearly every” business in Raleigh’s downtown area was damaged overnight.

A spokesperson for the Raleigh Police Department said police were aware of damage to INDY Week and the News & Observer. There haven’t been any arrests related to the incidents, according to the department.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd and others while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.

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

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