U.S. Capitol Police and law enforcement in Washington, D.C. were on high alert last week as a rally dubbed “Justice for J6” gathered on the national lawn on Sept. 18, 2021.
Rally organizers had said they wanted to bring attention to the more than 600 people they claim have been unjustly arrested or are facing charges in conjunction with the Capitol riots of Jan. 6.
The number of participants at the September rally paled in comparison to the number in January, where then-President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” as they made their way to the U.S. Capitol where legislators were inside certifying election results.
The crowds quickly turned into a violent mob and overtook Capitol Police. The mob rushed through barriers and stormed the building before eventually reaching the Senate and House floors. Rioters soon turned their anger towards the journalists covering the events. Video footage captured the words “Murder the Media” written on a door of the Capitol.
Journalists covering the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were harassed and assaulted, with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment damaged, as documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker through interviews with journalists, news reports and social media postings. At least three journalists were also detained by law enforcement during the course of their reporting.
In July, the Department of Justice began issuing charges against those who engaged in the riots and allegedly attacked reporters or damaged media equipment.
Attacks on Members of News Media
- Associated Press photojournalist John Minchillo was attacked by a mob and accused of being an anti-protester while covering the insurrection. An Instagram video shows Minchillo being dragged through the crowd before being shoved over a wall. On July 7, Alan William Byerly was charged with attacking Minchillo as well as a Capitol Police officer. On Aug. 24, the Department of Justice announced Benjamen Scott Burlew had also been arrested and charged in connection to Minchillo’s assault.
- On June 21, Shane Jason Woods was arrested and charged for tackling to the ground an unnamed cameraman who was covering the Capitol riots on Jan. 6. According to DOJ charging documents, Woods was captured on video “assaulting a USCP officer and a member of the news media.”
- New York Times reporter Erin Schaff was assaulted by rioters inside the Capitol. Schaff wrote that they stole her camera and broke the lens of another after identifying her as press. She later stated she feared she “could be killed and no one would stop them.” Sandra Weyer of Pennsylvania was later arrested for allegedly encouraging Schaff’s assault.
The Tracker has documented at least 17 journalists who were assaulted while covering the riot in D.C. Find those here.
Destruction of News Equipment
Rioters also swarmed a group of broadcast journalists and destroyed more than $35,000 worth of camera equipment. According to German public-service broadcaster ZDF reporter Elmar Thevessen, his team was reporting alongside AP reporters when rioters surrounded the journalists and began throwing and destroying their equipment. After the reporters were forced to abandon their equipment, the mob attempted to light it on fire.
The DOJ announced charges and arrests of Joshua Dillion Haynes of Virginia, Chase Kevin Allen of Massachusetts, Gabriel Brown and Zvonimir Jurlina of New York in connection with the destruction of the equipment.
Find all journalists and news organizations who had their equipment damaged on Jan. 6 in D.C. here.