Man sentenced for attacking reporter at Iowa protest
A man who harassed and tried to punch a reporter at a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020 in Waterloo, Iowa, was sentenced on Oct. 19 for the assault.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier staff writer Jeff Reinitz was livestreaming a protest when he was approached by a man who accused him of working for the police. The man shouted at Reinitz to leave and tried to hit him, punching instead another person who stood in front of the journalist to defend him. Another individual, later identified as a 16-year-old, then struck Reinitz in the back of the head.
Both the man, identified as Irwin Leon Wade III, and the teenager were arrested two days after the protest. Wade pleaded guilty to participating in a riot and assault. He was fined $380 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with two days served and the rest suspended, and one year of unsupervised probation, according to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
No information has been made public on the teenager.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier staff writer Jeff Reinitz was struck in the back of the head while covering a protest in Waterloo, Iowa, late on the night of June 2, 2020.
Reinitz was attacked during protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25. A juvenile was later arrested on charges related to the assault on the journalist, the Courier reported.
Reinitz told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was covering a march through downtown Waterloo on the night of June 2 when a man started shouting at him to leave.
In a video Reinitz livestreamed of the march on Facebook, a man can be heard identifying him as an employee of the Courier. “You can’t walk with us, bro,” he shouted. Reinitz responded that he was doing his job.
“You work for the police,” the man said, pointing at Reinitz. “No, I don’t,” the journalist responded.
Reinitz, who was focused on photographing the demonstrations that evening, said he ignored the man, and picked up his pace so he was walking with a different part of the crowd for the next several blocks.
After marching through the city, the protesters congregated on a highway overpass, and the crowd thinned out, Reintz said. The same man who had heckled Reinitz earlier in the evening approached him again.
The man shouted at the reporter again, telling him to leave more aggressively than before.
A cellphone video of the interaction shared on social media showed the man took a swing at Reinitz, according to the reporter.
Reinitz said he backed up to try to de-escalate the situation and to focus on doing his job, and other protesters stood up for him. One marcher got in front of Reinitz to defend the journalist, and the man punched him in the face, Reinitz said.
Reinitz didn’t want the protester to get hit again, so tried to signal to him that he was OK. Mixed in the crowd, he felt someone come up near his other side and try to knock his camera from his right hand. Because the strap was tethered to his hand, the camera didn’t fall to the ground. When Reinitz looked to see who had tried to hit his camera, he saw a young man walking away.
Then, as Reinitz turned back to the man who had originally become aggressive toward him, a third person came up behind him and punched him in the back of the head.
A cell phone video that captured the incident shows a person come up behind Reinitz and strike him. Reinitz stayed on his feet, but staggered slightly, raising his hand up to the back of his head as he moved away and leaned against a concrete barrier.
The Courier reported that a 16-year-old, who wasn’t identified, struck Reinitz. The youth was arrested on June 4 and charged for disorderly conduct and rioting, according to the Courier.
Reinitz said didn’t seek medical attention for his injury. He realized as he left the protest later that night that he was bleeding slightly behind his ear from the blow.
“My main concern was like, how do I go about doing my job without getting hit again?” he said. “I guess part of it's this other concern where you're trying to not be the news and I was just trying to think about, OK, how do I get basically back in the game.”
After he was hit, Reinitz continued to follow the protesters through the city. Police used tear gas to try to disperse the demonstrators, he said. When Reinitz was walking through clouds of tear gas near a park, a fourth person who had been involved with the altercation on the overpass came up and shoved him, before running off, he said.
Details about the 16-year-old’s case were not available because the individual is a juvenile, according to Reinitz. The Black Hawk County Attorney’s office didn’t respond to a request for information on the status of the case.
Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May, following the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and others by police.
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.