Journalists have been attacked all over the world while on the job covering protests for years, but never like they were this week in the United States during the George Floyd protests.
At least half a dozen incidences of arrests and attacks were reported in protests across the United States this weekend. Some were high profile, like the live-on-air arrest of CNN journalist Omar Jimenez and his crew Friday morning. Others got less attention, like Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske getting pelted with rubber bullets and tear gas or the two Los Angeles Times photographers who were briefly taken into custody.
To All Black Journalists: We See You, We Support You
WAVE-TV reporter Kaitlin Rust, who was covering protests in Louisville Saturday night, was shot with pepper bullets while live on air. Video showed a police officer aiming directly at her and her crew. “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” Rust, who was wearing a fluorescent vest, carrying a microphone, and standing in front of a camera, can be heard screaming. Police later apologized for the incident.
A crew in Denver tweeted after they were targeted by police there with paintballs and tear gas. “Luckily, I ducked,” one of the journalists wrote. The video journalist who was shooting the protests wasn’t so lucky and was struck.
Anti-Trump protesters in front of the White House turned their anger to Fox News journalist Leland Vittert who told the Associated Press, “We took a good thumping. The protesters stopped protesting whatever it was they were protesting and turned on us and that was a very different feeling.”
Briana Whitney, a reporter in Phoenix, was attacked on air and tweeted, “THIS IS NOT OKAY. This is the moment I was intentionally tackled by this man while I was on air trying to report what was happening during the protest at Phoenix PD headquarters. I feel violated, and this was terrifying. Let us do our jobs. We are trying our very best.”
KDKA TV journalist Ian Smith said he was attacked while covering protests in Pittsburgh. “They stomped and kicked me,” he wrote under a photo of him in the back of an ambulance. “I’m bruised and bloody but alive. My camera was destroyed. Another group of protesters pulled me out and saved my life. Thank you!”
Journalists have been attacked in the U.S. before, but not nearly as often or as brutal as this weekend. Speaking to The Washington Post, Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, blamed animosity towards the press on Trump. “By denigrating journalists so often, he has degraded respect for what journalists do and the crucial role they play in a democracy,” she said. “He’s been remarkably effective in contributing to this topsy-turvy sense that journalists are the opposition.”
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