Independent videographer Alyse Gallagher said she was hit in the chest with a crowd-control projectile and targeted with pepper balls by police as she recorded a confrontation between law enforcement and protesters in Seattle on June 2, 2020.
The city was in its fourth night of large protests against police violence sparked by the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. Gallagher, who posts footage of demonstrations on her YouTube channel, AlyseUnleashed, was filming the standoff at the intersection of Pine Street and 11th Avenue in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Police fired tear gas after some people in the crowd threw objects at officers. Protesters retreated about half a block north, as did Gallagher, who stopped in a parking lot where she tried to clear her eyes of tear gas.
She said she intentionally stayed away from the protesters so she wouldn’t be seen as a potential target by law enforcement. Gallagher was carrying and using a camera but said she wasn’t wearing visible press identification and was “going lower profile” that night.
Unable to see and in pain from the tear gas, she put her camera down and reached for her bag to get a bottle of water to flush her eyes.
“That’s when I realized I had...flashlights trained on me and I’m like: They think I’m grabbing something,” she told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
She said police fired pepper balls at her. In the video she filmed that night, a white puff consistent with a pepper ball impact can be seen.
“I’m not getting anything! I need water!” she shouted in the video. “I’m fucking press!”
Gallagher can later be heard waving off a protester offering help, saying she doesn’t want to be “too associated because they keep shooting shit at me.”
Less than two minutes later and still having trouble seeing, Gallagher was trying to untangle herself from her camera gear’s cables when she got hit in the chest by what she believes was a 40 millimeter crowd-control round containing a chemical irritant. “I just remember it hitting me in the chest and then like reeling backwards and then just screaming because I hit the ground hard enough that I recoiled. Like I could feel my chest bounce back.”
She said she doesn’t believe police targeted her for being a journalist, but is upset police used crowd-control weapons on her since she had clearly separated herself from the protesters.
“That’s the one thing that kind of bothers me: You're going to shoot the one person who’s not behind the wall of shields? Where if you’re up to anything, that’s where you’re going to be?” she said. “I was by myself in that parking lot at that point.”
The Seattle Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment about the incident.
Protests following the deaths of Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and against police brutality have continued in many U.S. cities for months. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.