In Focus: Journalists Covering Riots Are Under Assault by Police and Protesters Alike

By David Schonauer   Monday June 1, 2020

Journalists have become targets.

Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer, activist and author, was shot in the left eye Friday while covering the street protests in Minneapolis. As The New York Times noted this weekend, Tirado is one of a number of journalists around the country who were attacked, arrested or otherwise harassed — sometimes by police and sometimes by protesters — during their coverage of the uprisings that have erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“A television reporter in Louisville, Ky., was hit by a pepper ball on live television by an officer who appeared to be aiming at her, causing her to exclaim on the air: ‘I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!’” notes The Times.

Protesters attacked a Fox News correspondent and his crew outside the White House, taking the journalist’s microphone and striking him with it. “In Atlanta, masses of protesters on Friday night convened on the CNN headquarters, where they broke through the front door, lobbed fireworks and vandalized the building,” noted The Times. “Earlier in the day, Omar Jimenez, a reporter for the network, was detained as he reported live, despite calmly offering to move to the location of the police officer’s liking. On Saturday, he reported that his crew’s cameraman and producer were hit by rubber bullets.”

Tom Aviles, a photographer with CBS Minnesota station WCCO, was struck with a rubber bullet and arrested while covering the intensifying protests in Minneapolis Saturday night, noted CBS News. Police officers forced Aviles to the ground as they arrested him, then told the producer working with him, “You've been warned, or the same thing will happen to you. Or you're next."

Photographer Hyoung Chang was covering a George Floyd protest Thursday night in downtown Denver when police began firing cannisters of tear gas and balls loaded with pepper at the crowds, notes the Denver Post. Chang reported that an officer fired two pepper balls directly at him.

“If it was one shot, I can say it was an accident,” Chang said. “I’m very sure it was the same guy twice. I’m very sure he pointed at me.”

Linda Tirado told The Times, “I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded. I immediately felt blood and was screaming, ‘I’m press! I’m press!’” She added that she assumed he was hit with a rubber bullet, which came from the direction of the police. “Although doctors told her that she is not likely to recover her vision, she is grateful for one thing: she shoots with her right eye,” noted The Times.

In its article, the Times pointed to a poll showing that trust in the media has lagged. The Washington Post reported on the violence aimed at journalists and noted that this comes after years of disparagement of the media by President Donald Trump, who has called journalists “the enemy of the people,” complained about “fake news,” and openly insulted reporters —  especially women of color.

Trump did not start this, noted Post media correspondent Margaret Sullivan, but he has made it immeasurably worse by denigrating respect for what journalists do and the role they play in a democracy.


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