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Photojournalist struck in stomach by projectile during Raleigh protests

May 30, 2020

Ethan Hyman, a photojournalist for the Raleigh News & Observer, was struck by a crowd-control munition while covering protests in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 30, 2020.

The protest was among several demonstrations held across the country sparked by a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minnesota on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Hyman told the Committee to Protect Journalists — a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker — that he started to cover the protest in the city at around 5 p.m. After briefly returning to the newsroom to file, he went back to cover the protest at around 7. He witnessed confrontations between protesters and police, including officers from the Wake County Sheriff’s Department and the Raleigh Police Department.

Hyman says police used tear gas throughout the protest to disperse the crowd. Hyman saw protesters trying to throw canisters back at the police and putting cones over the tear gas to stop it from spreading.

At around 10:25, Hyman was shooting video when he was struck in the stomach by a projectile. He is still not exactly sure what struck him, although tweets sent by fellow News & Observer photojournalist Travis Long indicate it was a rubber bullet.

At the time he was struck, Hyman says, there were officers in riot gear firing tear gas from the steps of the courthouse in downtown Raleigh. He was not standing in the direct line of fire and estimates that police were 20 to 30 feet away from him at the time.

“It was not a very controlled situation,” said Hyman. “The police didn’t seem like they had control either.”

Hyman was wearing an N95 mask and goggles with a seal when he was struck. He says he doesn’t believe he was targeted for being a journalist. Hyman was wearing his press credentials around his neck, and they were visible when he was struck.

A tweet posted by Long shows the extent of Hyman’s injuries. The tweet, sent early in the morning of May 31, is captioned, “You’re going to feel that in the morning bud.”

The Raleigh Police Department did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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

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