Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer, activist and author, was shot in the left eye Friday while covering the street protests in Minneapolis.
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.
With trust in the news media lagging, journalists have found themselves targeted.
A television reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, 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!”
Outside the White House, protesters attacked a Fox News correspondent and his crew, taking the journalist’s microphone and striking him with it.
In Atlanta, masses of protesters Friday night converged on CNN headquarters, where they broke through the front door, lobbed fireworks and vandalised the building. 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.
Tirado, 37, drove to Minneapolis from Nashville to photograph the protests and donned goggles to protect her eyes. In the commotion of running from tear gas, they slipped off her face.
“I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded,” she said in a telephone interview after being released from the hospital. “I immediately felt blood and was screaming, ‘I’m press! I’m press!’”
Tirado said the shot, which she thought was a rubber bullet, came from the direction of the police. Protesters carried her out, and she had surgery within the hour. 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.
“I would say there is no way that anyone had looked at me and not known that I am a working journalist,” she said. “That said, police have been pretty clear that they don’t care if you are working journalist.”
John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police, said he was unaware of the incident. He said the department had not 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 in an email.
In Louisville, police are investigating the circumstances behind the WAVE-3 reporter who was struck.
“We will identify the officer involved and review the video to determine what was going on at the time and if further action is needed,” Sgt. Lamont Washington, a spokesman, said.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press logged about 10 different incidents that ranged from assaults to menacing in Phoenix, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Minneapolis.
“With the unraveling of civil peace around the country, reporters are perceived as a target by both the police and the protesters,” said Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee, “and that is an extremely frightening place to be.”
Leland Vittert, the Fox News journalist who was attacked near the White House, said a man in a hoodie and black bandanna kept hovering around his live shots asking: “Who are you with? Who do you work for?”
When the man found a photo online that identified Vittert as an employee of Fox News, the heckler gathered other demonstrators around him.
As the journalists and their security guards tried to flee, they were pummeled with objects. The security guard was punched in the jaw, and Vittert was struck with his own microphone.
“My role as a journalist is to report and show what’s going on,” Vittert said in an interview. “If there’s some kind of thought that the reason I was targeted is because I work for Fox News, I would like to show them tweets where President Trump has gone after me personally.”
Frances Robles c.2020 The New York Times Company