By Linh Nguyen
At George Floyd protests across the nation, journalists from various local and international news outlets are falling victim to police brutality and arrests while covering these news stories.
Historically, reporters are free to roam and cover—as guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—news events, including demonstrations.
However, despite that, journalist are being targeted and routinely attacked and arrested by officers patrolling the protests. Increasingly, reporters find themselves in a great deal of danger while on the job, even though they are exempted from curfews.
The Committee to Protect Journalists outlined a safety advisory for those covering U.S. protests over police violence, which includes information about police targeting journalists with rubber bullets, projectiles and pepper spray, arrest and detention, threats from crowd, physical safety, and digital safety.
In Sacramento this past weekend, a Black Zebra Productions journalist, working for the Sacramento Bee and with a press pass stating such, was held for about 30 minutes in handcuffs while police checked his credentials
And, on May 29, 2020, at 5:10 a.m. CT, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his camera crew were arrested in Minneapolis while reporting a closure of a street in the city as a result of the riots. The arrest was aired live on CNN.
— New Day (@NewDay) May 29, 2020
According to the footage, Jimenez and his crew were approached by a group of state patrol officers in full protective gear. Jimenez alerted the officers that they were live and identified himself and his crew, and showed their press passes, as a team reporting for CNN.
Jimenez calmly and respectfully told the officers that he will get out of their way and that they can direct the team to wherever they need to be.
While Jimenez described the scene to the camera, one of the officers told him he was under arrest. Jimenez complied and asked the officer why he is being put under arrest. The officers did not answer him. One of the team members behind the camera continued to explain that the crew is reporting from CNN and that they were live on CNN around the world. Jimenez remained calm as he was arrested.
During his arrest, CNN news anchor Alisson Camerota made an announcement to viewers who were just tuning in. One of the men behind the camera asked her to pause so that they could listen to what the police officers were saying. Jimenez was escorted away from the scene.
“That is an American television reporter, Omar Jimenez, being led away by police officers,” said one of the cameramen. “He clearly identified himself as a reporter. He was respectfully explaining to the state police that our CNN team was there and moving away as they would request, and then for some reason, he was just taken into police custody live on television.”
The producer was arrested next as the cameraman stated that he believed they would all be arrested. He asked again why they were being arrested.
The cameraman put his camera equipment on the ground as he was being arrested. The camera was still running live and broadcasting. An officer carried the camera away, unaware that it was still rolling.
The three crew members were arrested within five minutes of being approached by the state patrol, not knowing why they were being taken into custody at the moment. A news anchor from the broadcasting studio shortly later learned from the unarrested photo director that the crew was arrested for not moving when they were told to by police.
On the same day, another reporting crew was fired at on live television in Louisville, Kentucky. Video footage showed reporter Kaitlin Rust walking down the street with her camera crew, stating that they were behind the line.
Also in today's criminal justice news, police in Louisville KY – who just watched police in Minneapolis MN arrest a CNN reporter live on-air – say "hold my whiskey" and deliberately shoot a reporter and her cameraman
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) May 30, 2020
The cameraman pans on an armed officer pointing a gun directly at them while Rust frantically yells that they are being shot at.
“I am getting shot!” she yelled.
Rust then realized that they were pepper ball rounds, which usually—like rubber bullets—don’t kill but can cause serious injury. The officer maintained aim at Rust and the cameraman and continued to shoot at them. The news anchors at the broadcasting studio asked Rust why they were being shot, to which she frantically said that she didn’t know.
Again, on the same day in Denver, Colorado, a team reporting for ABC Denver7 News was attacked. The police aimed at reporter Adi Guajardo and a photographer with paintballs. The photographer got hit four times and the camera also got hit. Guajardo avoided getting struck.
Police just fired off paintballs and tear gas.
Our photographer got hit four time and our camera got hit.
— adigtv (@AdiGTV) May 30, 2020
Freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado was shot in the left eye while covering the riot in Minneapolis.
“[What] we think happened is I took a rubber bullet to the face,” Tirado said on Twitter. “It exploded my eyeball, which has not been patched together but who knows if it’ll need more surgery. My vision is gone no matter what it winds up looking like scar wise.”
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