U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Video journalist struck by crowd control munition, briefly detained amid DC protests

Incident Details

May 31, 2020

Ford Fischer, co-founder and editor-in-chief of News2Share, was struck by a crowd control munition and detained by Metropolitan Police Department officers while on assignment for digital wire service Zenger covering protests in Washington, D.C., on May 31, 2020.

The protest was one of a surge of demonstrations across the country, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Fischer, whose video news service focuses on "the latest on politics and activism,” told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was covering demonstrations in Farragut Square, just north of the White House in downtown D.C.

Some of the protesters, he said, moved from the square eastward toward the intersection of 16th and I streets. A group of riot police were gathered about half a block up I Street, Fischer said, and a small group of officers was on the north side of 16th Street.

Demonstrators were throwing fireworks and police tossed flash-bang grenades, Fischer said, as he filmed from a bit behind the protesters. In footage he posted of the incident, Fischer appears to be standing in the street filming as fireworks are launched by individuals nearby.

“At some point during that charging, there was an instant strike to my head,” Fischer said, noting that he could even hear in his video footage the sound of the crowd control munition flying through the air.

Fischer noted in a separate tweet that the “solid goggles” he was wearing helped minimize the harm, saying that he was “fine.” He told the Tracker that he believes the goggles deflected the round.

“That’s how I ended up with this weird, two part injury from this one shot,” Fischer said. “There was this half-golf ball-sized sore coming out of my forehead and then also an impact on the upper part of my nose.”

Fischer said that after he was struck, he attempted to leave the protest by heading west on I Street, where some looting was taking place.

“At some point police charged them, and it was while everyone was running away westward towards the Foggy Bottom/George Washington region of D.C. that the particular group I was running with ended up being kettled.”

“Kettling” is a police maneuver used to hem in protesters and is often followed with indiscriminate arrests or citations.

Fischer said that he and about 20 protesters were detained in the kettle for approximately eight minutes.

“When I realized what was happening I identified myself as press to one of those officers,” Fischer said, “and I remember that he responded, ‘We’ll talk about that later.’”

While detained, Fischer said he interviewed one of the protesters who had his front teeth knocked out by police earlier that evening. Eventually an officer came up to the group and announced that everyone would be allowed to leave as long as they returned home upon their release, according to Fischer.

“So they let us out one by one, and one of the officers took their body cam off of their vest and held it close to our faces as we exited, effectively taking mugshots or documenting the people they had kettled before letting us go,” Fischer said.

The Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The previous night, May 30, Fischer was struck twice with pepper balls, which are functionally paintballs filled with a powdery pepper spray: once in the stomach and once on his right shoulder. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented that incident here.

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