U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videographer hit with crowd-control munitions while covering viral TikTok gathering

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 22, 2021


Was the journalist targeted?
May 22, 2021

Police hit independent videographer Sean Beckner-Carmitchel with crowd-control munitions while he was covering an event that went viral on social media and gathered large crowds in Huntington Beach, California, on May 22, 2021.

According to NBC News, the event, promoted as "Adrian's Kickback," began with a TikTok post from user adrian.lopez517 that invited people to "pop out n celebrate my bday." NBC reported that at least 2,500 people responded the night of May 22, gathering in streets and sidewalks in Huntington Beach and eventually drawing police, who declared an unlawful assembly "due to unruly crowds." The NBC report said police arrested nearly 150 people for vandalism, setting off fireworks, failure to disperse and curfew violations. Police tweeted that an emergency curfew was in effect from 11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

Beckner-Carmitchel tweeted at 9:15 p.m. that he was in Huntington Beach and reporting on Adrian's Kickback. Two hours later, he tweeted a video of people running along the sidewalk, while police roamed the streets. His tweet said police had fired crowd-control pepper munitions, “enough to where the air is causing people to cough.”

"Police dropped some pepper bullets. Firework thrown at police," he wrote in another tweet at 11:53 p.m. "I was just hit by less lethal munitions."

Beckner-Carmitchel told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he wore National Press Photographers Association credentials around his neck and was near Walnut Ave and 3rd Street when he sustained "very intense bruising on the right hip, as well as a laceration on the back of the head."

"My hip hurts right now but I can’t get to my car so I guess I’ll be covering for the rest of the night," he wrote in another tweet.

Huntington Beach police issued a press release stating that "Chief Julian Harvey will be meeting with representatives from various social media platforms, including TikTok, to discuss the events that transpired to...minimize the potential for incidents such as this to happen again in the future."

Public information officer Jennifer Carey told the Tracker she had no additional comment.

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