Videographer Vishal Singh said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officers hit him in the leg with a pepper ball while he was covering a protest against the department on June 12, 2021.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the sheriff’s department had denied a permit to a group planning a protest to demand that Sheriff Alex Villanueva step down. Despite the ban, demonstrators went ahead with a march, “highlighting the many killings of LASD against the Black and Brown community — such as #DijonKizzee, a Black man who was shot and killed last year for a bicycle violation," Singh wrote on Twitter at 3:45 p.m. that day. Singh’s Twitter post accompanied a video of a demonstrator speaking to officers on a megaphone.
Singh, who has worked on Netflix documentaries and covers protests in Los Angeles, said that at one point, sheriff’s deputies “started pointing me out and calling my name to each other." A video he posted shows a brief conversation Singh had with one deputy.
"One of them recognized me from the raid on the Black Unity autonomous protest camp last year," he wrote.
At 6:14 p.m., Singh tweeted that he was hit in the leg by a pepper ball. In a video accompanying the tweet, the sound of a gun firing can be heard, followed shortly by Singh cursing, but the pepper ball is not seen. Singh told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he wore a press badge while reporting, but he said the officers were "kind of shooting at everybody," and thus he did not believe he was deliberately targeted.
In a letter to the department's board, the ACLU of Southern California said the sheriff's denial of the protest request was "unconstitutional and suggested it was the result of bias," wrote LAist.
Two weeks earlier, on May 28, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction limiting the sheriff’s department's use of projectiles and chemical agents on protests, "finding that it has indiscriminately fired them at peaceful protesters, legal observers and journalists," according to the Los Angeles Times.
LASD Deputy Eva Jimenez did not respond to the specifics of Singh’s case but told the Tracker that the "deployment and use of less lethal munitions is guided by strict policy and procedure, in addition to current state and federal law. Every application and use of force is thoroughly documented, investigated, and reviewed at multiple levels throughout the chain of command."
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.