Voice of America journalist Jason Patinkin said he was hit with a baton while reporting on a protest in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square on June 22, 2020.
Patinkin told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker the man who hit him appeared to be working with law enforcement but was not wearing a uniform and would not answer questions about his identity.
The protest was one of many against racial injustice in the capital and around the country in response to the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the June 22 demonstration in Lafayette Square, a park adjacent to the White House, a group of protesters attempted to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson, prompting the U.S. Park Police to use pepper spray and batons to push them back, the Washington Post reported.
Late in the afternoon, Patinkin said he was filming a line of police attempting to move protesters when a man used a baton to hit the journalist and a nearby protester. Patinkin said the man was not wearing a uniform but appeared to be working with the police to control the protest.
Images in a VOA video news story about the protest show a man wearing a dark green shirt, green protective vest and a helmet with a face shield who is holding a baton on both ends in front of his chest. He lunges toward the camera, which shakes, then can be seen lunging toward the right of the screen, apparently hitting a protester.
Patinkin said the man hit him horizontally across the chest.
“It's an unmarked guy hitting, hitting a journalist and hitting a protester,” Patinkin said. “If that's not assault, I don't know what is.”
Patinkin said the blow was not enough to knock him over. He told the Tracker that he repeatedly asked the man who he was, and the man backed away from the police line. He did not identify himself or answer questions about his affiliation, Patinkin said.
Patinkin said he asked a uniformed police officer who the unidentified man was, but the officer said he didn’t know.
“That means that he was operating in a line of police violently, and they didn't know who he was, and they didn't do anything about it,” Patinkin said.
Later in the day, Patinkin filmed the same man working alongside police officers, including helping with an arrest.
Patinkin said he was wearing a press badge issued to him at VOA by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA. He said he had repeatedly identified himself as a journalist to other police officers who were in the line at the time he was hit. He also was carrying a camera with a large microphone attached.
“I don't know if I was specifically targeted because I was a journalist, but I was definitely hit despite clearly being a journalist,” he said.
The U.S. Park Police did not respond to requests for comment.
The Tracker is documenting arrests, assaults and other obstructions to journalists covering protests across the country.