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.
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.
The next day, MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake also appeared to be hit by a police projectile while reporting live from Washington D.C. “We're gonna make some moves here,” he told the anchor, just moments before he was apparently hit. “We’re gonna end up in a place we don’t wanna be here if we’re not careful.”
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.
Andrea May Sahouri, a breaking news reporter for The Des Moines Register, said she was arrested Sunday while reporting on protests at a local mall. In a video posted to Twitter from the back of a police car, Sahouri said she was in a crowd of people running from police when she stopped to help her boyfriend, who was hit with tear gas. She said officers approached her, pepper sprayed her, and zip-tied her hands, even as she told them she was a reporter.
“I’m just doing my job as a journalist, I’m just out here reporting,” she said.
Wall St. Journal reporter Tyler Blint-Welsh reported his ankle was in “searing pain” after NYPD officers allegedly hit him in the face with riot shields and pushed him to the ground. “I was backing away as request, with my hands up,” he tweeted. “My NYPD-issued press badge was clearly visible. I’m just sitting here crying.”
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.”
In Chicago, freelance reporter and Daily Beast contributor Jonathan Ballew said he was pepper-sprayed even as he brandished his press credentials.
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.”