May: While reporting from protests across the nation, journalists tear gassed, threatened and harassed
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, ignited a sweeping assembly of protesters across the United States — and the globe — in a staggering, monthslong outcry for police reform and racial justice. In many moments peaceful, in many others bracingly violent, journalists of all stripes took to documenting these demonstrations. At times, to do the job meant to expose oneself to the effects of riot-control agents, to face harassment from individuals or law enforcement officials, to fear for your safety or have your reporting interrupted. Below is a geographically-organized roundup of such examples from around the U.S. in May.
A full accounting of incidents in which members of the press were assaulted, arrested or had their equipment damaged while covering these protests can be found here. To learn more about how the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents and categorizes violations of press freedom, visit pressfreedomtracker.us.
MAY 29, 2020
In Oakland, California
- Mario Koran, West Coast reporter for the Guardian, had been covering an escalating scene downtown that evening. Around 8:45 p.m., he noted on Twitter: “Crowd size and energy w some ebb and flow but to note that so far assembly almost entirely peaceful.” A little after 9, he reported, “That's changed. Flash grenades poppin off. Crowd throwing items at cops. Also fireworks.” Half an hour later, he noted: “Police have fired tear gas into crowd, sending people running,” and, “Many people clutching their eyes, nose running, one man bent over vomiting. Literally hard to breath.” At around 10:15, he tweeted: “My face and lungs are burning. My nose is running. I'm going home. -30-” Koran continued to tweet and share images and videos of looting and destruction. In one of his final messages of the night, he noted: “I was struck by the kindness almost all protestors showed each other tonight, apologizing when they bumped into you, offering you water to rinse tear gas from your eyes. It was unexpectedly touching.”
Many people clutching their eyes, nose running, one man bent over vomiting. Literally hard to breath— Mario Koran (@MarioKoran) May 30, 2020
- Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, a reporter/producer for KQED, a public radio and television outfit based in San Francisco, was also in downtown Oakland that evening. At around 11:30 p.m. he tweeted, “not my most dignified moment. but hey, thanks random demonstrator for the baking soda and water,” and shared a video in which the journalist can be heard coughing, spewing a lone profanity and at one point asking, “Does anyone have milk?”
- Doug Sovern, a political reporter for KCBS Radio, based in San Francisco, was also covering protests in downtown Oakland. In a report that aired the following day, Sovern said, “When protesters started setting off fireworks and throwing bottles at cops, police responded with tear gas and many in the crowd fled in panic. I got gassed, as did many other media.” He’d relayed a similar account at around 9:45 p.m. on May 29 on Twitter, saying, “Breaking: #Oakland police fire tear gas at #GeorgeFloyd protesters after series of small explosions. Crowd runs. I got gassed, as did many other media. Not fun. Burning eyes, hacking cough. Been at least 17 years since I managed not to avoid the gas at a protest,” and sharing a shaky video where loud noises, reported as flash-bangs, can be heard and a smoky haze looms in the distance.
Breaking: #Oakland police fire tear gas at #GeorgeFloyd protesters after series of small explosions. Crowd runs. I got gassed, as did many other media. Not fun. Burning eyes, hacking cough. Been at least 17 years since I managed not to avoid the gas at a protest pic.twitter.com/T1a0Aizkch— SovernNation (@SovernNation) May 30, 2020
In a tweet sent just after midnight, Sovern reported: “Not one person in the #GeorgeFloyd protest crowd tonight in #Oakland was hostile to me in any way. No one refused an interview or a photo, no one swore at me, and several came to my aid after I got tear gassed.” The next morning, he added: “It was a really rough night for a lot of the media working bravely to do their best to cover a chaotic situation. Some got hit with rubber bullets. Many of us got gassed. And some good people were plain ripped off.”
In San Jose, California
- Scott Budman, a reporter for NBC Bay Area, was covering protests downtown that evening. A little after 8 p.m., he tweeted: “OK. Just got tear gassed for the first time in my career. Time to go.” Budman also spoke about the tear-gassing briefly in a June 6 podcast he co-hosts for the Silicon Valley Business Journal, The Silicon Insider.
In Louisville, Kentucky
- Sara Sidery, a reporter for Fox-affiliate WDRB News, was covering protests downtown that afternoon. Sidery tweeted that moments before she was going live, police deployed tear gas without warning. “I got separated and ran out of instinct. I couldn’t breathe or see,” Sidery wrote. She received aid from some protesters, who poured baking soda solution into her eyes.
Shortly before going live, police threw tear gas w/o warning. I got separated and ran out of instinct. I couldn’t breathe or see. A group of #Louisvilleprotest protesters stopped to help me and poured baking soda solution in my eyes so I could see again. Thank you. @WDRBNews pic.twitter.com/PNDQwzQF6B— Sara Sidery (@SaraSideryWDRB) May 31, 2020
In Atlanta, Georgia
- Julieta Martinelli, a reporter and producer for LatinoUSA, was covering protests downton and in front of the CNN Center. According to a series of tweets Martinelli posted on Twitter, she was recording on the front line of the protest where a few dozen protestors were facing off with police in riot gear. “Cops came from 3 directions & closed around us in [the] intersection,” Martinellie wrote, adding that the officers tear gassed and maced the crowd. “I’ve never felt anything like that before,” Martinelli said in a video. “Imagine the worst panic attack you’ve ever had times ten. That’s the only way I can describe it.”
Hi, just checking in. I was recording in the front line where just a few dozen protestors stood arms locked in front of police with riot gear. They were chanting but not violent. Cops came from 3 directions & closed around us in intersection. threw tear gas & maze. pic.twitter.com/E1cSlQWIrN— Julieta Martinelli (@ItsJMartinelli) May 30, 2020
May 30, 2020
In Seattle, Washington
- Nathalie Graham, a staff writer at the Stranger, a biweekly alternative newspaper in Seattle, had been covering protests in the city late in the afternoon. A little after 4 p.m., she noted on Twitter: “Plumes of tear gas on Pine near Westlake #SeattleProtest.” The ACLU announced on June 9 that it had filed an emergency lawsuit against the city on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and several individuals, arguing that “the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violate the First and Fourth Amendments.” Graham was among the plaintiffs. In her declaration, she relayed the following: “The scene when I arrived [at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle] was clouded by gas, with protesters scattering and sprinting away. The atmosphere was tense and frightening. I immediately felt the effects of the gas and began coughing. My eyes stung and watered. Although there did not appear to be any risk of violence from the crowd, law enforcement continued to fire flash bangs and tear gas, increasing the chaos. I took video footage of these protests and the violence that ensued. I was determined to continue reporting, so I began roving around the Westlake area, observing the scene. As I approached the corner of 6th and Stewart, I saw a group of protesters peacefully kneeling in the intersection as a speaker addressed them. I stood on the sidewalk nearby and listened to the speaker for a while, but then I heard an explosion from down the street. I turned and moved partway down the block to see what was happening, and then watched as a police line advanced down the street towards me, with other demonstrators fleeing in front of them. They deployed tear gas, which filled the street like plumes of smoke. It was not clear to me that the people fleeing the approaching police line and tear gas had done anything to provoke such an aggressive response. The protesters kneeling in the intersection, who were also impacted by the tear gas, had been completely peaceful. I did not see what happened next, but given the amount of gas in the air, I imagine that the kneeling protesters would have been forced to scatter. I wanted to continue to document the situation, but the gas reached me seconds later, and I had to leave. Its effects were so powerful, so painful, and so alarming that I was physically unable to remain in the intersection. As a result, I was unable to continue reporting on that incident. Shortly afterward, on E. Pine St, I saw a truck playing music, as protesters danced around it. It was an uplifting, joyful scene that contrasted with the warlike chaos of the panicked demonstrators and tear gas in other areas of the neighborhood. I paused to observe and record a video, when law enforcement threw a flash bang grenade into the crowd without warning. They deployed tear gas seconds later. The dancing protesters at first scattered, but then coalesced back into a group. Law enforcement pushed them back and continued to deploy tear gas and flash bangs. I was shocked and frightened by the consistently unprovoked, aggressive use of force by law enforcement officers on multiple different groups of peaceful protesters. I saw no evidence that any of these severe crowd-dispersal tactics were warranted, and there was never any warning before they were deployed. At this point, I decided to leave the area, because I feared for my safety. There was tear gas everywhere, flash bang grenades exploding in the street, and I was anxious that the police would further escalate their tactics. I decided that reporting on the situation was no longer worth the pain of enduring tear gas and the risk of suffering violence at the hands of law enforcement.”
- Brandi Kruse, who hosts a weekly politics show called the Divide on Q13Fox, was live-tweeting protests in the city throughout the afternoon. At around 4:15, she tweeted: “Rioter took A-15 out of @SeattlePD SUV and started firing it into vehicles. No one hurt that we know of.” Around 5:30, she reported: “As I explained on air, our security guard felt that the public was in danger. He took the AR 15 from the rioter and disabled it. We called 911 and waited to hand it over and continue our reporting. Protesters surrounded us, calling us police. I repeated over and over I was press. One protester told me to leave the area because I would not be safe there. That’s behind us, reporting continues on Q13FOX.” Fox News reported on the security guard’s actions and threats faced by the journalists.
As I explained on air, our security guard felt that the public was in danger. He took the AR 15 from the rioter and disabled it. We called 911 and waited to hand it over and continue our reporting. Protesters surrounded us, calling us police. (1/2) https://t.co/q9jypdxfco— Brandi Kruse (@BrandiKruse) May 31, 2020
On June 18, the Seattle Police Department issued subpoenas to five area news outlets, requesting all video footage and photographs taken on May 30 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. within a four-block radius. The Tracker has documented that case, and its evolution, here.
In Beverly Hills, California
- Carlos Granda, a reporter for ABC7 News, and his news crew were caught in tear gas as protests advanced down Rodeo Drive near the intersection with Santa Monica Boulevard. “We’re being hit by tear gas,” Granda can be heard saying during a live broadcast. “I’ve got to stop, because I can’t even keep my eyes open.”
In Reno, Nevada
- This Is Reno, an online news site, reported in a multi-bylined piece that, while covering protests in downtown Reno, “multiple members of the news media, including News 4, KTVN, This Is Reno, KUNR Reno Public Radio and The Nevada Sagebrush were tear gassed.” Lucia Starbuck, a reporter for KUNR and one of the journalists bylined on the This Is Reno piece, noted the presence of tear gas in a tweet sent around 7:20 that evening.
Don Dike-Anukam, a political reporter for This Is Reno, was also assaulted by individuals while reporting that day, a case the Tracker has documented here.
In Las Vegas, Nevada
- Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Rio Lacanlale and photographer Kevin Cannon had been covering demonstrations downtown, and as the evening wore on, documenting protesters as they moved within blocks of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. Cannon told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he’d set up on a balcony adjacent to Fremont Street East and across the street from the Downtown Container Park to livestream. The location, he said, had placed him away from the crowd for much of the evening. At around 9:35 p.m., Lacanlale, who wouldn’t pair up with Cannon for another couple of hours, tweeted that the crowd had reached between 800 and 1,000 people at its peak. Just after 10, she reported that SWAT had arrived, and that she was “hearing what sounds like flash bangs from a distance” and “seeing a lot of protestors helping one another, spraying water into each other’s eyes, after tear gas was deployed near 6th St.”
Seeing a lot of protestors helping one another, spraying water into each other’s eyes, after tear gas was deployed near 6th St.— Rio Lacanlale (@riolacanlale) May 31, 2020
Cannon, who’d continued to livestream from his balcony perch during this time, told the Tracker: “I wasn't targeted with tear gas. Law enforcement didn’t know I was up there. I didn’t even look like a journalist because all I had was my phone.” At around 11:15, Lacanlale, who’d joined up with Cannon at this point, tweeted, “While standing on the sidewalk, Metro officers began shooting pepper bullets at us.” (She later noted that she’d not been hit.) “Nearly all the protesters had left,” Cannon told the Tracker. “There was no tear gas. We were nearly a block away. I don’t think they knew we were journalists. Rio has no gear. I only had my phone. I did have my credentials on my belt, but there was no way they could see that far in the dark.” The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Lacanlale and the Las Vegas Review-Journal did not respond to the Tracker’s requests for comment.
In Kansas City, Missouri
- A KSHB 41 Action News crew that included reporter McKenzie Nelson, photographer Darius Smith, and field producer Scott Winkler, was caught in tear gas deployed just before midnight. "We had to move. We are okay," Nelson wrote in a post to Twitter.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
- Minneapolis police officers deployed flash-bangs in the direction of NBC News correspondent Morgan Chesky and his crew, who were reporting live on MSNBC at 8:45 p.m., according to an MSNBC video of the incident. According to a video posted to Chesky’s Facebook page, city and state police pushed protesters away from the Fifth Precinct police headquarters to enforce an 8 p.m curfew. In the MSNBC video, Chesky reports in a gas mask a block away from Nicollet Avenue as state police continue to advance through clouds of smoke and tear gas. Minneapolis police appear from the other side of the block and yell, “Move!” Chesky and crew begin to retreat north through a bank parking lot. “We’re moving back,” Chesky says in the video. “We’re gonna give them all the space they need right now.” The video shows Chesky with what appears to be a group of other journalists and scattered protesters moving northwest through the parking lot as Minneapolis police trail behind. Someone yells, “Don’t shoot!” shortly before an officer fires a projectile launcher at an unseen target. Several loud bangs can be heard, including from a flash-bang that appears to go off just feet away from Chesky. “Let’s go. Let’s go,” Chesky says in the video as the group reaches a barrier at the far end of the parking lot. Someone repeatedly says, “Press, press,” to the police, who are now standing a few feet away. The journalists climb over the barrier and continue to report while retreating from the advancing police. “They are not hesitating to use tear gas, flash-bangs, whatever they need to do, to keep these crowds moving,” Chesky reports in the video. Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder declined to comment, citing unspecified pending litigation. The incident involving Chesky and his crew is mentioned in a lawsuit seeking class-action status filed by the ACLU of Minnesota on June 2 against Minneapolis and state officials concerning the treatment of journalists covering the Floyd protests. Chesky is not a listed plaintiff in the case. “Our crew was shaken, but safe,” Chesky posted on Facebook after the incident. “And now, it’s back to work.”
- Chao Xiong, a Star Tribune reporter who’d been covering protests near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fifth Precinct that evening, tweeted a little after midnight: “I’m with @ByLizSawyer and 2 Kurdish journalists and 1 Japanese journalist near 5th precinct. Cops told us to go home. When we said we were press one said ‘Your cards are bullshit’ #GeorgeFloyd.”
- Mara Klecker, a fellow Star Tribune reporter, shared a similar experience on Twitter about 20 minutes later: “St. Paul Police also told media to go home tonight. I showed my press badge and was told ‘doesn’t matter.’” She added in a thread a few minutes later: “Let me add that all my interactions with St. Paul police tonight were civil. Clear directions, polite tone. I also wasn’t in any tense situations once the protesters were diverted from crossing the Lake St. bridge.” Later that morning, around 9:30, Klecker shared a direct message sent by the St. Paul Police Department: “Hi Mara. We saw your tweet about the police officer you say told you to go home. That doesn’t sound like something we see from a SPPD officer because we work hard to protect freedom of the press. But in the throes of such a dynamic situation, it’s possible one of our officers had a momentary lapse. It also may be possible that the officer was from another agency. There were a lot of agencies involved last night. Either way, we’d love to learn more so we can see if there’s a gap in our training or at the very least talk to the officer so we can remind him about our values and protocols. Would you mind giving one of our PIOs a call this week?” Klecker’s reaction to the message, which she shared on Twitter, was, “Very nice to wake up to this message this morning. Saint Paul police PIOs (public information officers) also helped media get permission to get through road blocks to get where we needed to be last night.”
- Hossein Fatemi, a freelance photojournalist, shared a video on Twitter around 9:30 p.m. in which munitions fire can be heard and a smoky haze can be seen in the background.
In an interview with BBC Persian the following day, Fatemi shared another video, of individuals helping to rinse out his eyes following the release of a chemical irritant.
- Raphaël Grand, a journalist with Radio Télévision Suisse, had spent the afternoon documenting the scene in Minneapolis, at one point tweeting: “# Minneapolis One city, two atmospheres. Riots VS Contemplation.” At around 9 p.m. he tweeted in French “Tear gas for @RadioCanadaInfo.”
- Anthony Soufflé, a staff photographer for the Star Tribune, tweeted images the following morning showing the journalist looking to catch his breath and having water poured in his eyes. “One of these groups came to my and several other journalists aid when we were tear gassed yesterday,” he wrote. In early June, Soufflé was among several journalists cited in a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU against city and state officials, alleging violations of the journalists’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.
One of these groups came to my and several other journalists aid when we were tear gassed yesterday. I’m incredibly thankful for them. Thanks too @scottsphoto. Amid continued protests 'sick and tired' group of friends teams up to provide medical help https://t.co/k4LZ3jx9dt pic.twitter.com/4tOrddeiZu— Anthony Soufflé (@AnthonySouffle) May 31, 2020
In Fort Wayne, Indiana
- A WPTA ABC 21 television news crew was threatened with arrest by an Indiana State Police trooper while covering protests in the city. WPTA news director Jonathan Shelley told the Tracker that he and other staff members had been caught in tear gas as they reported on the protests that day, but to his knowledge, it was never directed at the journalists. He said that shortly before 10 p.m., the police went through the streets with loudspeakers, announcing that an “unlawful assembly” had been declared and directing people to get off the streets. The news crew continued to stay on the scene, documenting arrests that were happening in the area. As they filmed a group of Fort Wayne Police Department officers handcuffing an individual, an Indiana State Police trooper not involved with the arrest noticed the journalists and “made a beeline toward us” from across the street, Shelley said. Video that Shelley took of the interaction shows the officer walking briskly toward the journalists. From a distance, he appeared to shout “walk” and “you’re next” at Shelley and his colleagues. The officer walked up close behind the news crew as they moved away from the area. “If I catch you, you’re going to jail,” the officer can be heard saying on the video. “I’m going to jail?” Shelley responded, then saying, “I’m press,” and “I’m moving out of the way.” “Then walk,” the officer can be heard saying. Shelley said the members of his group were clearly marked as journalists, wearing bright red jackets with the ABC 21 WPTA logo and press badges with their names and station affiliate visible. Sergeant Brian Walker of the Indiana State Police said in an emailed statement that Shelley alerted him to the situation and he shared the information with his superiors. He said he and Shelley discussed the situation and “the matter has been satisfactorily addressed” for both the news organization and the police. Shelley said in a follow-up email that his meeting with the Indiana State Police representative was productive and the matter was being addressed with the trooper. He said he was told that the Indiana State Police plans to use the video for training purposes in the future “in hopes of reducing the likelihood of future occurrences,” Shelley said. According to Shelley, there have also been broader discussions between local media and police, including the Fort Wayne Police Department, which took the lead on enforcement during the protest, and involving Indiana State Police. They discussed how the decision to declare “unlawful assembly” is reached and the rights journalists have to operate once such a declaration has been made, he said. In a separate incident later that day, Indiana State Police helped a WPTA journalist who’d sustained minor injuries when she fell while covering the protest. “Our experience as a team involved…examples of assistance to the press by law enforcement officers, as well as hindrance to the press in some cases. And so we kind of saw a little bit of both,” Shelley said.
- Brianna Dahlquist, a reporter for Fox 55, and her news crew were caught in tear gas while covering protests that afternoon. “While reporting we got tear gassed and my coworker is hurt right now,” Dahlquist said in a video posted to Twitter. In the tweet, she added, “Tear gas [is] NO JOKE.”
In Columbus, Ohio
- Amy Harris had started her workday in Columbus around 10 a.m. at a demonstration at the Capitol. She told the Tracker that the protest had been going on for about an hour and a half when police, who’d had a large presence at the scene, became agitated and made a wall of bicycles in front of thousands of peaceful protesters. Harris said she didn’t see this incident transpire explicitly, but it seemed apparent that a demonstrator had thrown an object at the officers, who then pepper-sprayed the crowd. Later, she said, more officers arrived and tear-gassed the crowd. Harris said she was assisted by protesters when the tear gas blocked her airways. They poured milk and saline solution on her face, until she was able to breathe again. She said that people from the back of the crowd began to throw bottles at the police, who then fired on the crowd with tear gas canons. Harris said she began to have serious trouble breathing and started to throw up. Some demonstrators helped to get her out of the area. “The protesters immediately came and sprayed my eye and offered milk and saline,” she said. “I took the spray of water and baking soda and started to be able to breathe. I recovered and went back to the area to shoot the arrests that were taking place.”
Harris was struck by a projectile fired by police the following day while covering protests in Louisville, Kentucky, a case the Tracker has documented here.
- Kyle Robertson, a staff photographer for the Columbus Dispatch, told the Tracker that he was pepper-sprayed by law enforcement while covering a protest adjacent to the Capitol. Robertson said that as the size of the protest grew, groups of police officers on bicycles had moved to create a barricade and contain protesters to the sidewalk area and keep them off the street. Robertson said that a protester either tripped or was pushed into the street and that police officers immediately jumped on this person. Robertson said that local government officials who had been standing between the police and the protesters tried to intervene to deescalate the situation. He said he moved to photograph the altercation among the protesters, the officers and the government officials when the police began to use pepper spray on the crowd. Robertson said he took pepper spray on one side of his face and arm and on his camera gear. Unable to see in the moments after the attack, he said an individual grabbed him and pulled him aside and led him back to a local business along South High Street, where the man soaked his bandana in saline and helped him to clean himself and his camera. Robertson said the individual told him, “They were aiming for you,” but as he was focusing on photographing when the attack occurred, he said he hadn't seen what had happened and that he couldn't say if he’d been targeted. Noting his height — Robertson is 6-foot-4 — he said it was possible he stood out in the crowd and was clearly visible to the officers shooting the pepper spray. After a short break, Robertson said he soon went back to work. “I kept shooting with one eye and didn’t stop for several hours,” he said.
- Another Dispatch journalist, Lucas Sullivan, tweeted around 11:15 that morning, noting that both he and Robertson had been pepper-sprayed. Sullivan could not be reached for additional comment.
In Nashville, Tennessee
- Reporter AJ Abell, of Fox 17 News in Nashville was doing a live shot amid unrest at the Metropolitan Courthouse when a group of protesters interrupted his broadcast, forcing his team to go off-air. Law enforcement had been trying to disperse protesters from the area after some had lit fires at the courthouse—which is also home to City Hall—and vandalized the grounds. At about 9:05 p.m., just before Abell went on air, officers could be heard over loudspeakers ordering the crowd to disperse. The sound of flash-bangs soon followed, and a large group of protesters was sent running in Abell’s direction. Some of them moved into Abell’s shot, getting in front of the camera while yelling protest slogans and expletives and giving the middle finger. One person picked up the crew’s tripod and threw it, though it sustained no damage. Abell told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that they had to cut their broadcast because “you couldn’t understand or hear what I was saying.” Aside from the incident with the tripod, Abell told the Tracker that no one assaulted him or his crew. In the minutes following the incident, after moving away from the courthouse, Abell appeared to be experiencing the effects of tear gas. “My whole face is burning, literally my entire face,” he can be heard saying on a livestream broadcast by Fox 17.
In Raleigh, North Carolina
- Charlie McGee, currently a reporter with Bloomberg News but a freelancer on May 30, said he’d spent several hours covering protests downtown that afternoon and evening. He said that at around 8:45 p.m., police officers started to fire tear gas toward protesters who’d congregated near the Wake County Courthouse. Protesters, he said, then began to shoot off fireworks and shatter windows. McGee said that at around 9:30 he went to inspect and film some damage near the intersection of South Salisbury and West Davie streets, in front of the courthouse. Ten minutes earlier, protesters had smashed windows and thrown trash cans, but there were now only a few scattered people on the sidewalks and in the street, including a medic and another photographer, and no one within 10 feet of him, he said. “Out of nowhere, from the other side of the intersection, a tear gas canister flew in and landed by the right side of my feet,” McGee told the Tracker. “Then another lands and spikes to the ground by the left side of my feet and bounced a few feet behind me.” McGee said he moved fast enough to evade most of the gas, but he felt some irritation on his face. He didn’t capture the incident on video but afterward posted a message to Twitter about his experience. McGee said he believes he was clearly identifiable as a member of the press because he was wearing a laminated press badge around his neck and had been filming in the vicinity of police officers all evening. “It was either a misfire and mistaken strategy, or maybe someone decided intentionally to do that with a couple journalists in the street. But all of that is speculation,” McGee told the Tracker. A spokesperson for the Raleigh Police Department said the department and an independent contractor for the city were reviewing the response to the incident. She declined to comment further.
Group of riot police fired this tear gas dump directly at my feet. Larger crowd and property damage was happening a block down the road, and ZERO ruckus from protesters in my area at time. These officers have seen me all day and know I'm a journalist. Ihave a press pass on. pic.twitter.com/BUmKkrTbCh— Charlie McGee (@bycharliemcgee) May 31, 2020
In New York, New York
- Jon Farina, a freelance photojournalist, was threatened by a Strategic Response Group officer with the New York City Police Department while documenting protests in the Lower West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. In an Instagram post with a video and description of the incident, Farina said that he was walking with two other photojournalists when they found a group walking past the Lenox Health Greenwich Village hospital on Seventh Avenue. “We noticed they vandalized an NYPD vehicle that was parked in front of the hospital,” Farina wrote. “As the group was leaving heading uptown, someone came back and threw something that was lit on fire into the vehicle.” Farina told the Tracker that the three photojournalists stayed in the area to document the scene. Shortly after the group left, Farina said, an NYPD officer came out of the hospital, drew his weapon and pointed it at Farina as he was filming the scene from the street. “Get away from the fucking car,” the officer can be heard shouting in Farina’s video of the incident. The officer does not respond to Farina’s question of why the officer had drawn his weapon, but does appear to lower and holster the firearm. The officer then continues to shout for Farina to get away from the car and cross back to the other side of the street. “I immediately moved to the side and I just kept moving because I didn’t know if he would start shooting,” Farina told the Tracker. “I wasn’t even near the car, my [press] credentials were out, the other two journalists had credentials out, we had big cameras, so there was no threat to him, for him to do that.” At that point, Farina said he walked away and gave up asking the officer about his actions out of concern that he might be arrested or harmed.
May 31, 2020
In Denver, Colorado
- Lindsay Fendt, a freelance journalist on assignment for High Country News, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an interview that she was enveloped in a cloud of tear gas at 7:12 p.m. outside the state Capitol when a police officer kicked a canister of tear gas that had rolled in his direction. The canister happened to land near her, she said, and she inhaled the gas, which left her sweating and temporarily unable to see. “I just stumbled up a hill and thought I was going to throw up,” she said. She used milk and water with baking soda to rinse off her face. She said she does not feel as though she was targeted as a journalist with the gas. “I don’t think they were really paying attention to who anybody was,” she said.
Covering Denver protests tonight. Standing next to the police with a crowd of photographers. One of their chemical bombs rolled back and a cop kicked it sideways right into us. Took it full on to the face, but I’m ok now. I’ll tweet camera photos tomorrow. Stay safe everyone. pic.twitter.com/u5TzAfXJI8— Lindsay Fendt (@LEFendt) May 31, 2020
In Austin, Texas
- Kacey Bowen, a reporter for KTBC, a Fox affiliate station based in Austin, and her photographer were caught up in tear gas while reporting live outside Austin Police Department headquarters. After throwing the feed back to the studio, Bowen and her photographer can be heard coughing and dousing their face and eyes with a solution Bowen said was provided by some protesters. “The tear gas definitely came down from [I-]35. We did get hit with it. It did get in our eyes and in my photog’s face. But we are doing OK. Definitely did burn for a little bit,” she reported once she was live again.
In Dallas, Texas
- Tabitha Lipkin, a host on NBCLX, tweeted around 11:30 p.m. on May 30: “Went into downtown Dallas to cover the protest. They were happening just a few blocks away from my new apartment. Here’s the images I captured. It was peaceful for the majority of my journey, but turned intense and somewhat violent towards the end.” In one of the four accompanying photos, Lipkin can be seen pouring a liquid solution into her left eye. A little after midnight, she followed up with a video and posted that she and executive producer Americo Capodagli had tear gas thrown at them: “I turned on my camera the moment tear gas was thrown right towards where me and my Exec Producer @americocap were standing at the press line. My first and first hand experience with tear gas.”
Went into downtown Dallas to cover the protest. They were happening just a few blocks away from my new apartment. Here’s the images I captured. It was peaceful for the majority of my journey, but turned intense and somewhat violent towards the end. @NBCLX pic.twitter.com/qDGTD7rVBY— Tabitha Lipkin (@TabithaLipkin) May 31, 2020
In Cincinnati, Ohio
- Sarah Brookbank, a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, was live on Facebook documenting the scene near the Hamilton County Courthouse right around the time of the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. A few minutes in, she noted the use of what she described as pepper balls. A little over seven minutes into the video, an officer can be seen approaching Brookbank and other reporters in the area: “Go. Move. Now. What’d I tell you about curfew?” Brookbank and fellow Enquirer reporter Dan Horn can be heard identifying themselves as media and members of the press. The officer then says to Brookbank, “You don’t look like the media to me.” About an hour later, as she was documenting the arrest of a protester nearby, Brookbank tweeted: “Cops yelled at us as we filmed, told us to ‘get the f***k out of here’ and came toward us, I yelled that we were with the media, we’re told we needed ‘more visible’ marking. I have my press badge in my hand.”
Cops yelled at us as we filmed, told us to “get the f***k out of here” and came toward us, I yelled that we were with the media, we’re told we needed “more visible” marking. I have my press badge in my hand— Sarah Brookbank (@SarahBrookbank) June 1, 2020
In Washington, D.C.
- WUSA, a CBS affiliate station in the nation’s capital, reported that at midnight reporter Matt Gregory and photographer James Hash “were tear-gassed on Live TV while reporting at the scene of the protest.” At approximately 12:25 a.m., Gregory tweeted: “As they move the protestors down H street, police fired a combination of tear gas and flash bangs. We took a little bit of the gas. Protestors stopped to help us breathe and clear our eyes out.”
- Reporter Shelby Talcott, of the Daily Caller, a Washington-based news website, told the Tracker that while she was covering protests near Lafayette Square just after midnight when police at the scene fired a tear gas canister in her direction. Talcott said she had to leave the area and had someone rinse her eyes with saline solution, but said that she did not require medical attention and was able to keep covering the demonstration. “I had to step back for about five to 10 minutes.” Talcott said she did not think she was targeted by police, as she was standing in the middle of a group of protesters and was not wearing credentials or clothing that clearly identified her as a member of the press. “My view of it was that it was thrown at me because I was in a crowd of protesters,” she said. “So I wouldn’t say I was targeted as press.”
In Wilmington, North Carolina
- Reporter Emily Featherston, of WECT, an NBC affiliate station based in Wilmington, reported to the Tracker: “Myself and fellow reporter/videographer Bryant Reed were, like others, affected by tear gas (authorities originally denied having used CS tear gas, but when confronted with what we experienced and a canister found on the street, walked back). Then, after being told by the chief of police we were standing in an acceptable location (on the steps of City Hall, out of the street and way of law enforcement), a Sheriff's deputy approached us in full riot gear.” Featherston said that the deputy then told them to move, to which they responded: “We’re with the media!” The deputy then said, “I don’t give a shit! Move!” according to Featherston. She continued: “The deputy then told us if we did not move we would be arrested on the spot. In the interest of continuing our coverage, we moved up the street.” In a Facebook Live stream, Featherston discussed the incident with New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, who apologized to her. Reed later told WECT colleague Jon Evans in his podcast 1on1 with Jon Evans: “We didn’t take a direct hit. Where we were, it was the wind that blew back the tear gas toward the officers we were close to. That’s how it got in our eyes, how we got affected. Then, one of the officers was telling us to disperse the area immediately or we could be arrested, so we had to walk back into the tear gas and we got more of it. At least for myself, it wasn’t that bad at first. But then within a minute it was ‘Oh my goodness, my eyes are burning terribly.’ I’m crying. We had the masks on too, which seemed to make it even worse.”
In Richmond, Virginia
- Olivia Ugino, a reporter for WWBT, an NBC affiliate station based in Richmond, tweeted around 11:25 p.m.: “Here’s how it’s going down tonight. Police seem to be swarming vehicles and arresting those out past curfew. I attempted to get out of my car to shoot video and was approached by officers with guns pulled and was told to get on the ground.” In an accompanying video, Ugino can be heard telling the officers that she worked for NBC12. An officer can then be heard saying, “If you’ve got credentials, I need to see them.” Upon showing the officer her credentials, he says, “All right, yes, ma’am, you’re fine. Do what you gotta do.” In a threaded tweet, Ugino wrote: “I was told I was fine with my credentials. I then tried to get video of the arrest, with my door open, and another officer reached in and grabbed me. We were then told to leave.” In the accompanying footage, an officer can then be heard saying, “Back it up, back it up. I don’t care who you work for. Back it up, I don’t want you here. Let’s go. It’s a security issue.” Ugino complied and moved her vehicle to a nearby parking lot, according to an account on Facebook she gave in the early hours of June 1. Neither Ugino or WWBT could be reached for comment.
Here’s how it’s going down tonight. Police seem to be swarming vehicles and arresting those out past curfew. I attempted to get out of my car to shoot video and was approached by officers with guns pulled and was told to get on the ground. Here’s part one. @NBC12 pic.twitter.com/jFJ71kdBvy— Olivia Ugino (@OliviaNBC12) June 1, 2020
Information in this roundup was gathered from published social media and news reports as well as interviews where noted. To read similar incidents from other days of national protests also in this category, go here.