Chhoun

Trump supporter assaults, knocks phone out of journalist’s hands

September 30, 2020

WCCO photojournalist Dymanh Chhoun was assaulted ahead of a rally held by President Donald Trump on Sept. 30, 2020, following a confrontation between a Trump supporter and supporters of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The outlet reported that Chhoun was on assignment to get reactions in advance of the president’s rally in Duluth, Minnesota. While gathering footage, Chhoun noticed a Trump supporter confronting a group of counter-protesters.

According to the Star Tribune, the Trump supporter — identified as 70-year-old Duane Waldriff — said he was driving near the airport a few hours before the president was scheduled to arrive when a group of Biden supporters started pushing his truck, which had multiple pro-Trump stickers and signs visible.

Waldriff said he got out of his vehicle to confront the protesters and tell them to stop hitting the truck.

In the cell phone footage captured by Chhoun, Waldriff can be heard telling the protesters, “You guys want to be peaceful? Be peaceful. You want to be violent? Come to me.”

He then seems to notice Chhoun and punches at him, knocking the phone out of Chhoun’s hands. Chhoun was not injured and his phone was undamaged.

“I was scared,” Chhoun told the Tribune. “I’m used to people verbally attacking me but not physically. I was just doing my job.”

Chhoun was caught in tear gas at the end of May while covering a protest against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Waldriff told the Tribune that he did not realize until after the altercation that Chhoun was a journalist. Chhoun said he was wearing a press badge and a WCCO jacket, according to the Tribune.

Multiple journalists at WCCO spoke out online condemning the attack and in support of Chhoun and his professionalism.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that Chhoun filed a police report and planned to press charges. Waldriff has since been issued a citation for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct. If convicted, he faces up to 90 days in jail, fines totaling $1,000 or both.

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

May 28, 2021 Update

A Minnesota man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge on May 28, 2021, for assaulting and knocking a phone out of the hands of former WCCO photojournalist Dymanh Chhoun ahead of a rally held by then-President Donald Trump.

On Sept. 30, 2020, WCCO reported that Chhoun was on assignment to get reactions in advance of the president’s rally in Duluth. While gathering footage, Chhoun noticed a Trump supporter confronting a group of counterprotesters and approached to film the interaction.

In Chhoun’s footage, the Trump supporter — later identified as Duane Waldriff — appears to notice Chhoun and punches at him, knocking the phone out of Chhoun’s hands. Chhoun was not injured and his phone was undamaged.

Waldriff was issued a citation for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct shortly after the incident; as part of a plea deal, Waldriff amended his not guilty plea on the disorderly conduct charge to guilty, WCCO reported. As part of the deal, Waldriff’s sentence was suspended in lieu of one year of probation and the fifth-degree misdemeanor assault charge against him was dropped.

WCCO reported that Waldriff will have to pay a $400 fine unless he writes an apology letter to Chhoun.

“If [Waldriff] would rather pay the $400 I’m fine with that, but I would rather read a letter written by him to me about how he felt that day,” Chhoun told the Tracker. “You have to remember, we were working at a time when the most powerful person in the country didn’t like us. And that’s not OK. Trump made our jobs harder.

“I don’t want any Asian, African American, white reporter or photographer or person who works for any news media organization to be harassed like I was ever again. That’s why I wanted to press charges and I’m happy he pleaded guilty,” Chhoun said.

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