U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videographer assaulted, his phone thrown over a fence while covering Detroit protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 10, 2021
Location
Detroit, Michigan

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes

Equipment Damage

Equipment Broken
April 10, 2021

Freelance videographer Brendan Gutenschwager says he was assaulted by people who claimed to be “acting as security” for an anti-evictions protest in Detroit, Michigan, on April 10, 2021.

According to The Detroit News, protesters, organized by local activist groups Detroit Will Breathe and Detroit Eviction Defense, gathered beside the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters on Third Street and proceeded through downtown.

Gutenschwager, whose videos of protests have been used by Fox News, CNN and ABC News, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that just after 2 p.m. he was filming the march with his phone and posting coverage to his own Twitter feed.

He said he was not wearing a “PRESS” jacket or identification but he identified himself verbally to the protest group as press.

A team of people monitoring the perimeter of the march identified themselves as security, he said. “Within a few seconds of seeing and identifying me, one of these individuals came up to grab my [phone] camera and force me away from the group,” said Gutenschwager.

Gutenschwager said he told the monitors that he was there solely as a journalist documenting things peacefully, “but they took significant issue with me having covered the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th earlier this year.”

According to Gutenschwager they accused him of being part of the crowd that attacked the Capitol, “and in assuming I was, said that I was a threat and tried to force me to leave.”

Gutenschwager denied he was a participant in the attack and said he was in Washington D.C. as a journalist that day. One of his videos, of a right-wing Proud Boy member bashing in a window of the Capitol with a stolen police shield, went viral.

“It appeared the anger at the Detroit event was targeted towards me for having been in DC to cover the event,” he told the Tracker.

After the group tried to force him away, “I stayed behind the march from that point forward, but several members of the group became fixated on my presence,” Gutenschwager said.

“Some attempted to keep the peace, telling the other protesters ‘Please don't engage with him. Just let him go.’ Others disagreed,” said Gutenschwager, whose video showed people shouting abuse at him, putting a hand over his phone camera and telling him “you are not welcome here.”

“Someone rammed me into the barricade,” he said. “I was then choked by a man who put both his hands around my neck as my [phone] camera was stolen and thrown over the fence.”

Gutenschwager said his lip was injured and he had scrapes on the right side of his body from the barricade. “I was able to retrieve the camera that had been thrown, at which point I resumed recording as protesters taunted me from the other side of the fence about being bloodied up,” he said.

The phone was not badly damaged so he did not report the incident to the police, he said.

Event organizers Detroit Will Breathe and Detroit Eviction Defense did not respond to requests for comment.

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