Tyler Blint-Welsh, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, said he was hit in the face and shoved to the ground by police while he covered protests in Lower Manhattan on May 31, 2020.
The protest in New York was 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 on May 25. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Protests against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since the end of May.
Blint-Welsh told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that on the evening of May 31 he was walking his bike through a crowd a couple of blocks from Union Square, his New York Police Department-issued press credentials dangling from his neck. He saw police officers in riot gear and with Plexiglas shields a couple rows deep. Protesters faced down the police and refused to leave, he said.
Blint-Welsh said that NYPD played a recording over and over, for about 15 to 20 minutes: “This protest is destructive and violent. We order you to disperse. If you do not disperse, you are subject to arrest.”
In response, the crowd began to chant, “This is a nonviolent protest!”
Suddenly, Blint-Welsh said, the police rushed forward. People screamed and started to run, he said, but he decided it was better if he stayed apart, on a street corner. He left his bike and found himself in a group of people under some scaffolding.
Blint-Welsh said he told an officer, “I’m press!” and raised his hands in the air.
Then, he said, an officer pushed his shield into the journalist’s face, hard, with a corner of the shield tearing his lip and breaking his glasses, which fell from his face. Blint-Welsh said his head was protected by his bike helmet.
The reporter said it felt dangerous to turn and walk away, but when the sidewalk widened, he was able to do so. Blint-Welsh said that’s when a police officer shoved him in the back and he fell, injuring his ankle.
He said he heard an officer yell, “Get ’em!” as if officers were going to jump on him.
At about 11 p.m., Blint-Welsh posted about the assault on Twitter.
The New York City Police Department acknowledged a request to answer questions about the incident, but didn’t reply to further messages.
Blint-Welsh told the Tracker he sought medical attention and was given a medical boot to stabilize his foot.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department said police are looking into the allegation.
“The incident, sadly, is the latest of many across the country in recent days in which we have seen journalists injured, and in some cases targeted, and a reminder of the dangers we face covering the story,” WSJ Editor in Chief Matt Murrray told staff in an email. IAPE, the Journal’s staff union of which Blint-Welsh is a member, also released a statement condemning the assault.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas, or had their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.