Two North Carolina photojournalists struck by projectiles during Raleigh protests
Two photojournalists were injured by projectiles likely fired by police 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.
Ethan Hyman, a photojournalist for the Raleigh News & Observer, 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, he told the Committee to Protect Journalists in a phone interview on June 5.
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. Hyman also assumes the projectile was fired by police. 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 about 100 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 sent 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.”
On the same evening, photojournalist Brad Simmons of WRAL-TV, a North Carolina station, was also struck with a projectile while reporting, he told CPJ in a phone interview on June 5. Simmons was shooting video at the protest in Raleigh, which he said was “peaceful” until around 7:30, when it began to escalate.
“There was tear gas, people running. People started being a little bit more combative when law enforcement showed up,” Simmons says.
Simmons witnessed protesters throwing bottles and garbage can lids, as well as breaking windows and storefronts. At around 10:20, he was struck in the left knee by a rubber bullet. He assumes it was fired by police. Simmons estimates he was about 75 feet from police when he was struck. At the time he was struck, he saw many officers in riot gear.
Simmons doesn’t believe he was targeted for being a member of the media and thinks he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Raleigh Police Department did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred total incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country related to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Find all of these cases here.
This article has been updated to reflect the distance between photojournalist Ethan Hyman and Raleigh police when he was struck with a projectile.