This article has been updated.
On any given day, any one of the attacks that I mention in this column would be newsworthy. The fact that this is only a sampling of the many attacks on journalists this weekend underscores the dangers that they are willing to face to document an outpouring of anger, frustration and, in some cases, senseless opportunistic violence.
— WLKY (@WLKY) May 30, 2020
A crowd swarmed WLKY chief photographer Paul Ahmann, knocked him to the ground, then surrounded him while laughing and taking pictures of him.
All – I’m ok. Paul, the photographer who’s been with me all night, is being treated but is also ok. A lot of people helped us tonight and I’m so grateful.
— Deni Kamper (@WLKYDeni) May 30, 2020
Demonstrators trashed news cars in Boston, Atlanta, Louisville and Los Angeles. They tossed bottles at reporters in Minneapolis, grabbed a reporter while she was on the air in Phoenix and smashed the windows and iconic CNN sign outside the networks’ Atlanta headquarters.
Police added to the danger. In Louisville, a police officer fired more than a half dozen nonlethal PepperBall rounds that hit WAVE-TV reporter Kaitlin Rust and photojournalist James Dobson. Dobson said he was wearing a protective vest that said “press” in reflective lettering but received several shots to the chest from an officer who fired straight at the news crew on live TV. Rust screamed on air when the round hit her, but kept on reporting even while the officer aimed his weapon. The crew said they were standing behind the police lines when the officer fired.
A couple of hours later, the station said a police public information officer apologized. WAVE-TV management and corporate leaders from Gray Television called on the police department to launch an investigation.
A Denver Post photojournalist also was hit by police PepperBall rounds.
NEW: 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. An officer fired two pepper balls directly at him, Chang said. https://t.co/PcWDZnQeBW
— The Denver Post (@denverpost) May 29, 2020
NBC social media journalist Micah Grimes, covering the protests in Minneapolis, was among several journalists who said police fired non-lethal rounds directly at them.
This appears to be the type of canister the policeman or guardsman aimed and fired at me as I turned away from him, hitting my right aide. Then taunted me like he was going to shoot me again. Ah, well. Work continues. https://t.co/Tw7W0PdN5e pic.twitter.com/sa8iNJ3lZs
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) May 30, 2020
In Las Vegas, police arrested two journalists who were covering a mostly peaceful protest on the Vegas strip.
“It is appalling that Las Vegas police officers, who have nothing to do with what happened in Minnesota, would so forcefully take into custody two people who were obviously working photojournalists and posed no threat to law enforcement or public safety,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said Saturday. “They never should have been touched, let alone arrested and then booked into jail.”
Attacks on journalists continued Saturday. Ian Smith, a photojournalist for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, posted a selfie from an ambulance.
I’m was attacked by protestors downtown by the arena. They stomped and kicked me. I’m bruised and bloody but alive. My camera was destroyed. Another group of protesters pulled me out and saved my life. Thank you! @KDKA pic.twitter.com/clyANKodth
— Ian Smith (@ismithKDKA) May 30, 2020
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it has volunteer attorneys on call for journalists who need legal help covering the uprisings.
Reach them at 800-336-4243 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also drafted this guide for journalists covering conflict.
Al Tompkins is senior faculty at Poynter. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @atompkins.