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US Law Enforcement Are Deliberately Targeting Journalists During George Floyd Protests

May 31, 2020

By Nick Waters

Translations: Русский

Bellingcat has identified and collected multiple instances of US law enforcement deliberately targeting journalists during the protests against the killing of George Floyd.

The arrest of a CNN crew in Minneapolis while broadcasting live on air on May 29th was a shocking event, especially in a country with such strong protections on freedom of speech. However as of the time of writing we have identified at least 50 separate incidents where journalists have been attacked by law enforcement.

In these examples journalists have been shot with rubber bullets, targeted with stun grenades, tear gassed, physically attacked, pepper sprayed and arrested.

Although in some incidents it is possible the journalists were hit or affected accidentally, in the majority of the cases we have recorded the journalists are clearly identifiable as press, and it is clear that they are being deliberately targeted. This pattern of violence against journalists is replicated in several cities, but appears most intense in Minneapolis.

A selection of these incidents can be found below. 

Incident 1, May 29: CNN crew arrested in Minneapolis

In the most famous example of violence against the press so far during these protests, a CNN film crew were arrested as they broadcast live on air. There was no legitimate reason for their arrest and they were released about an hour later.

Incident 2, May 29: Wave 3 news crew deliberately targeted with rubber bullets in Louisville, Kentucky

Yet again, a news crew from NBC affiliate Wave 3 broadcasting live on air were deliberately targeted by police firing rubber bullets from a range of a few meters. This crew were very clearly journalists.

Incident 6, May 30: Swedish and Norwegian journalists targeted with rubber bullets in Minneapolis

Injury sustained by Nina Svanberg

Swedish and Norwegian journalists who were clearly identifiable as journalists were targeted and hit by rubber bullets. One of the journalists stated:

“I wore two cameras, a press card around my neck, and a helmet and a gas mask. We took pictures and behaved in a different way to the protesters”

Incident 8, May 30: photo-journalist blinded in left eye by less lethal round in Minneapolis

Photo-journalist Linda Tirado was hit in the left eye by a less lethal round while covering events in Minneapolis. She later found out she had been permanently blinded.

Incident 11, May 30: CBS news crew targeted by rubber bullets in Minneapolis

Video posted by Michael George.

A CBS news crew, who were clearly identifiable as journalists, were targeted by rubber bullets. Their sound engineer was hit.

Incident 12, May 30: group of journalists targeted by less lethal rounds by Minnesota state patrol in Minneapolis

A group of a dozen or so journalists were targeted at close range despite identifying themselves as journalists, as described in the video above. Molly Hennessy-Fiske was struck on the leg by a less lethal round.

Injuries sustained by Molly Hennessy-Fiske


Incident 13, May 30: journalist pepper sprayed in the face while being physically detained by police in Minneapolis

Despite clearly identifying himself as press and holding his press card up throughout the incident, Michael Adams was physically detained on the ground and then pepper sprayed.

Incident 14, May 30: Australian News crew detained, handcuffed and searched before being released in Minneapolis

Tim Arvier and his crew as they were being detained.

Tim Arvier, a journalist working for 9 News Australia was detained and searched by Minneapolis police. They were then released.

Incident 18, May 30: journalists rushed and arrested by NYPD in New York

Tweet from Huffington Post

Journalist Christopher Mathias at the Huffington Post was arrested by the NYPD in New York. As reported by Phoebe Barghouty, he was credentialed and complying. His press pass appears to be clearly visible around his neck.

Arrest of Christopher Mathias as photographed by Phoebe Leila Barghouty

Incident 20, May 30: MSNBC film crew targeted with less lethal rounds

Despite clearly being identifiable as journalists, Ali Velshi and his crew were targeted and hit by less lethal rounds.

Conclusion

This selection of incidents demonstrates that law enforcement across multiple cities, but especially in Minneapolis, are knowingly and deliberately targeting journalists with less lethal munitions, arrests and other forms of violence.

This is a selection of the most egregious examples of violence against journalists. Many others can be seen in this thread by the author. Even as this article is being written multiple incidents of similar behaviour are being sent to us. If you have seen law enforcement deliberately targeting journalists, or experienced it yourself, please contact the author through his Twitter or at nick[@]bellingcat.com.

Considering the role of journalists to keep society informed about current events, as well as the strong constitutional protections of a free press in the United States, these actions by law enforcement represent an attack on the freedom of the press.

Journalists should be free to do their jobs without fear of violence or arrest, wherever it may be.

This article has been updated to reflect the number of incidents collected. 

Nick Waters

Nick is an ex-British Army officer and open source analyst. He has a special interest in the conflicts in Syria, as well as social media, civil society, intelligence and security. Contact via Twitter: @N_Waters89

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73 Comments

  1. Tom Haines

    A BBC news crew was tear gassed and shoved by police shields Monday night at Lafayette Square in DC to pave the way for Trump’s photo op with a Bible.

    Reply
    • KS

      Thought you might like to know that according to the US Parks Police they say they never used tear gas. And the protesters were turning violent and that’s why the crowd was cleared, peacefully with horses.

      What it means is that despite video evidence and eye witness reports, in the US you can deny the obvious truth and basically say 1+1=3.

      It’s their new world, and it’s remarkably sad.

      Reply
  2. Wastrel

    Yeah. Although the press should be free they are not being smart when they mingle with rioters. When their accounts of the riot favor rioting (FOR GREAT JUSTICE) then they do not make any friends with law enforcement. When they represent media organizations that consistently disparage the president and the police, and glorify policies that the police detest because it makes their job harder, they do not make any friends with law enforcement. Mix that up with the fact that police are required to be low-intelligence thugs, and the result is predictable. Perhaps a return to objective journalism is in order.

    Reply
    • Ryan

      Are you under the impression that the press need to make friends with police in order to earn their first ammendment rights?

      Reply
    • Todd Schmidt

      Bootlicking cuck. It’s not the job of the press, as the fourth estate, to make friends, but to report on the government and expose corruption.

      Reply
  3. Fuzzy

    Second video is mis labled and misleading on its title a pepper ball is not a rubber bullet.

    Reply
  4. Some guy

    How are the police supposed to know that the person wearing a “press” badge is actually a member of the press? Granted, behaving differently and having a camera crew with you may be one thing. However, any old person can print out “credentials” and have a buddy hold a camera, hoping to escape scrutiny.
    The same logic applies to a guns with orange paint or other fun colors. The authorities can’t trust that it’s a toy because anyone can paint a weapon.
    Expecting people to divine your intent during a period of chaos and unpredictability is just foolish.
    I can’t speak to all these incidents, but if you’re in the middle of a chaotic situation you can expect chaotic results – regardless of whether you’re a serial killer or Mother Theresa.

    Reply
  5. Eric R. Apple

    “Incident 2, May 29: Wave 3 news crew deliberately targeted with rubber bullets in Louisville, Kentucky”

    This is factually incorrect. I saw this happen live AND the video itself identifies the actual projectiles to be “pepper balls.” I assume you care about accuracy?

    Reply
  6. K

    “If you have seen law enforcement deliberately targeting journalists” – yup. The world seems to have forgotten Assange. He was too ill to appear in court a few days ago, due to an unspecified lung illness. There is a covid-19 outbreak at the prison he’s being held. He might well be dead within the week.

    Also, your old enemy Craig Murray. He may be an idiot on Syria, but unlike you he’s actually been speaking up for Assange, he’s now arrested for his coverage of Alex Salmond’s trial.

    You should be burning a couple more bridges with the FP/intelligence establishment. They will come for you too one day.

    Reply
    • Duke of Edinburgh

      So why did the grandstanding human rights activists abandon Julian Assange?

      Would have thought his case was a prime example of what (political) asylum should be – not the labour exchange it has become.

      Reply
    • FirstPlebian

      While Assange’s prosecution is an assault on journalism, let’s not forget that Assange crossed the line, into madness and went over to actively helping and rooting for Trump, and pushing lies to accomplish that, like the Pizza Gate. Don’t take my word for it, one of his cohorts chagrined at helping elect Trump released some of their chat logs.
      https://theintercept.com/2018/02/14/julian-assange-wikileaks-election-clinton-trump/
      It doesn’t take away from your argument however that they will come for us all if we don’t stop them I couldn’t agree more.

      Reply
  7. Duke of Edinburgh

    The prevalence of post-truth journalism has undermined the conventional protections that journalists could rely on in the field. Viewing the local TV coverage of the protests from the U.S. the TV reporters were clearly comfortable and almost indistinguishable from the crowd in their broadcasting positions, maybe for some getting caught up in the story dims their risk awareness.

    Reply

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