Two journalists who’d been reporting for the Detroit Free Press had weapons brandished at them by law enforcement officials while covering protests in the city on May 30, 2020, they told the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The protests were held in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.
Detroit Free Press reporter M.L. Elrick, who’d been reporting that evening with a group of Free Press journalists, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that at around midnight, a police officer pointed a nonlethal rifle at him. Elrick was standing on a street with Free Press reporters Branden Hunter and David Jesse, several other reporters and unidentified people in civilian clothes. Elrick was wearing a press badge, khakis and sneakers, according to photographs of the evening and the incident.
Elrick said that he “explained to the cop who [he] was and nothing happened.”
Immediately following this incident, police used tear gas to disperse protesters as well as a rubber bullet gun, but Elrick said he did not feel like it was aimed at the reporters.
“There was tear gas everywhere, so some people got it in their eyes,” Elrick told CPJ about that evening. “There [were] a lot of people going out there without proper regalia,” which, in Elrick’s opinion, made it difficult to distinguish journalists from protesters.
The Free Press did not respond to an email requesting comment as of press time.
When contacted by CPJ, the Detroit Police Department’s voicemail box was full. The department did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment as of press time. CPJ is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.