U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

VICE News journalist hit by projectiles while covering protests in DC

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 31, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Law enforcement in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020.

— REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
May 31, 2020

VICE News journalist Todd Zwillich told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was hit in the head by multiple projectiles during a chaos-filled night of protests in Washington, D.C., on May 31, 2020.

The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.

According to his Twitter feed, Zwillich had spent much of the evening of May 31 covering protests in Lafayette Park, near the White House. He told the Tracker that at around 11 p.m., the start of the city’s curfew, he’d been filming a line of law enforcement officials as they marched up 16th Street to clear protesters from the area, saying that the scene was not particularly crowded and that his credentials were visible.

He said that shortly thereafter an officer aimed at him and fired two projectiles. On Twitter he posted that he’d been “hit with a rubber bullet,” but he clarified to the Tracker that he wasn’t sure what the projecticles were. He was hit in the head, though did not suffer serious injury.

“I don’t know what they saw. I don’t know what they thought,” Zwillich told the Tracker. “I know what I was doing. But I don’t know how it was perceived.”

Zwillich said he was not certain which agency the officer was with. D.C. is notable for the large number of different police forces that operate within its borders. Requests for comment from the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police were not immediately returned.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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