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Media targeted: U.S. police shoot, tear-gas and arrest press members covering protests

CNN reporter Omar Jimenez being arrested on live television, May 29, 2020.
CNN reporter Omar Jimenez being arrested on live television, May 29, 2020.

As violence continues across the U.S. amid protests over racism and police brutality, members of the press are being threatened, injured and arrested by police forces in a number of cities.

Protests swelled across the country over the weekend after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot by police in Louisville. Since then, police have used non-lethal ammunition to subdue protesters demanding justice.

But videos, pictures and first-hand accounts circulating on social media reveal members of the press are also being injured by police. The incidents indicate the press is, in certain cases, being deliberately targeted by authorities; journalists also report being assailed by protesters. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has long derided the mainstream press with terms like “fake news” and “the enemy of the people,” has done little to quell such fears.

The world first saw authorities confront the press when police arrested a black CNN journalist on live television Friday. Omar Jimenez could be seen complying with police as they demanded he and his crew step back from a protest area. As the reporter followed instructions, police seemed to arbitrarily arrest him. Cameras continued to roll and CNN aired the detention of their reporter for over an hour. He was released the same day.

After the CNN reporter was arrested, Trump took to Twitter later on Saturday to attack the mainstream media.

“Much more ‘disinformation’ coming out of CNN, MSDNC, @nytimes and @washingtonpost , by far, than coming out of any foreign country, even combined. Fake News is the Enemy of the People!”

In another incident Friday, police allegedly shot and injured a photojournalist capturing the confrontations. Linda Tirado said on Twitter Friday she was hit in the face with a non-lethal round and had to be taken into surgery but despite medical efforts, she later said she had ended up permanently blind in one eye.

Journalist Nick Waters of Bellingcat, who has been keeping an ongoing record of attacks on members of the press, has so far tracked more than 95 instances of police and other law enforcement groups injuring or obstructing media.

A CBS News reporter posted footage to Twitter showing Minneapolis police firing at his crew; his sound engineer was seen to have taken a non-lethal bullet to the arm.

An LA Times journalist said Minnesota State Patrol officers took aim at her and a group of other journalists, spraying them “point blank” with tear gas.

Michael Adams, a journalist with Vice, can be heard in one clip from Minneapolis repeatedly shouting “Press” and “I am press” as police officers in riot gear point weapons at him. One officer can be heard saying “I don’t care, get down.”

Adams complies, but holds his press badge in the air, and an officer off-screen pepper sprays him while he is on the ground.

Two members of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets and a photographer’s camera was smashed in Minneapolis on Saturday night.

Footage taken by cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez showed a police officer aiming directly at him as police fired rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse about 500 protesters in the southwest of the city shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew.

A CBC journalist, live on air Saturday, said Minneapolis police shot her in the shoulder and threw a teargas canister at her back while she and her crew were alone in a Minneapolis parking lot.

Also on Saturday, HuffPost reported that law enforcement detained their journalist Chris Mathias while he was reporting on protests in New York.

As reports of press members being injured filtered in, watchdog group the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that authorities should be instructing officers to allow reporters to do their work.

“Targeted attacks on journalists, media crews, and news organizations covering the demonstrations show a complete disregard for their critical role in documenting issues of public interest and are an unacceptable attempt to intimidate them,” the statement read. “Authorities in cities across the U.S. need to instruct police not to target journalists and ensure they can report safely on the protests without fear of injury or retaliation.”

Apparently unconcerned by such incidents, Trump again took to Twitter on Sunday, saying the press was spurring anarchy:

“The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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