By Nathan Tucker
Protests starting over the police killing of George Floyd that burgeoned into a greater call to end police brutality have been worldwide events over the past few weeks. The wave of protests is almost unprecedented, with thousands pouring into the streets to voice their opposition to a corrupt criminal justice system.
Journalists for newspapers, television, radio and more have obviously flocked to their nearby protests to cover the happenings on the ground. Fairly simple: news is happening, they’re there to cover it.
But at many protests, journalists, legal observers and just anyone who’s got their phone out and filming have been targeted by police in varying cities. Much like the protests themselves, the first notable incident happened in Minneapolis.
Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer and author, was shot in the left eye by a rubber bullet by Minneapolis police. She’s just one of many journalists in the US who’ve been attacked while attempting to cover the protests in some way.
“I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded,” Tirado said, in a telephone interview with The New York Times, after being released from the hospital. “I immediately felt blood and was screaming, ‘I’m press! I’m press!’”
A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police said he was unaware of the incident. He claimed the department hadn’t used rubber bullets for decades.
“If someone believes that we have injured them, we encourage people to contact our Internal Affairs Unit or the Office of Police Conduct Review,” he said to The Times via email.
A reporter in Louisville, Kentucky was shot with pepper balls by a Louisville Metro Police officer directly aiming at her and the news camera. On live air, the reporter shouted “I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!”
Protesters have also targeted some media they find complicit in bogus reporting of protests. A Fox News journalist was harrassed in DC near the White House, and the CNN headquarters in Atlanta were the subject of broken windows and some graffiti.
People “covering protests” for the Daily Caller were the ones to film this happening, and help Vittert out of the crowd, in DC. The Daily Caller, once owned and operated by Fox News figurehead Tucker Carlson, has come under scrutiny countless times for promoting “alt-right” or extremist right wing views.
Vittert claims that his interaction in the crowd was “the scariest situation” he’s been in since the 2011 Arab Spring. When allies are publications that repeatedly tread in white supremacists, anti-semites and other racists, maybe that should be cause for some introspection.
CNN cameras came under fire outside of the White House, where protests have often spilled over to unrest with police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Police targeted the CNN journalist and camera crew live on Anderson Cooper’s show, seen by millions on live TV and the internet.
Police are being watched at protests like never before, and that includes TV cameras and journalists. Before this latest blossoming of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was largely activist journalists who reported these incidents.
As protests continue, journalists will continue to find themselves in the crossfire. Depending on which direction they’re pointing the camera, they could be targets for crowd-control weapons.