Vice News reporter Michael Anthony Adams shouted nearly a dozen times that he was a member of the media as police in Minneapolis poured out of a van on the street where he was covering the protests and yelled for people to leave.
“I don’t care,” said one officer, who ordered Adams to the ground. So he laid face-down, showed his press badge and tried once more.
“I am press. Please do -” That’s when an officer hit Adams with pepper spray.
The entire exchange, caught on camera, mirrored similar scenes that unfolded across the country through early Sunday morning: police spraying tear gas and rubber bullets at journalists who were covering demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody last week.
Several of the most chilling accounts came from Minneapolis, where Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz had just the day before strongly denounced the arrest of CNN’s Omar Jimenez on live television, warning that it sent a chilling message to the community. “The protection and security and safety of journalists covering this is a top priority, not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it is a key component of how we fix this,” Walz said Friday.
The next day, MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi stayed on air as he described the scene as police in Minneapolis marching down the street and spraying tear gas in his direction.
“They have now fired at us. Anybody hearing it? The gentleman next to us got hit,” he said. “We got gassed. They are continuing to fire at us. … There has been no provocation. There has been nothing that happened whatsoever.”
Velshi later tweeted a rubber bullet hit him in the leg.
Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske wrote that several journalists in Minneapolis shouted “press” and waved credentials but were nonetheless cornered and chased by police spraying tear gas and firing rubber bullets. One hit her photographer colleague Carolyn Cole in the face.
“I didn’t realize it, but I was bleeding from several wounds to my leg,” Hennessy-Fiske wrote. “Blood covered the face mask of a reporter next to me, who was so stunned someone had to tell him he was hurt.”
Reuters TV cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez was filming police around 8 p.m. when they began firing. “I’ve been hit in the face by a rubber bullet!” he said on camera. Chavez was hit in the back of his neck, under his left eye and his arm, while a Reuters security advisor also sustained injuries, according to the wire service.
Journalists weren’t safe in their cars. Star Tribune’s Ryan Faircloth had blood running down his face as he said on camera that he was “just trying to get out of the area” when police fired at his car and shattered a window. The gas hit him in the face and arm.
In some parts of the country, police detained reporters, including HuffPost reporter Chris Mathias, who wore a press badge while on assignment to cover protests in Brooklyn. He was released several hours later.
In Michigan, several Detroit Free Press journalists recounted harassment by police. The newspaper’s senior news director, Jim Schaefer, said that several were pepper-sprayed by police, and an officer slapped a livestream camera out of the hand of a photographer “as she tried to do her job. This is not OK.”
Free Press reporter JC Reindl captured a chilling image of a police officer wearing a gas mask just an arm’s-length away. “Last thing I saw before I got sprayed,” he tweeted. “I was even holding up ‘media’ badge.”
According to Free Press reporter David Jesse, police ran past him – “a white, middle-age man” -and “got in the face of my young black male colleague.”
“One of the craziest nights of my career. Got tear gassed multiple times,” he tweeted. “Police shot rubber bullets at us even (though) we were moving where they wanted us to go, holding up our press passes and yelling media.”
An officer in Louisville on Friday night pointed a gun at a local TV news cameraman as reporter Kaitlin Rust screamed “I’m getting shot!” with pepper balls. An anchor back in the studio asked who the officers were targeting. “At us! Directly at us!” she replied.
Louisville police spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said the department was still trying to identify the officer who fired at them. “Targeting the media is not our intention. There was a lot going on last night, and to be fair to both the officer and to Kaitlin, we need to take a deeper look at what happened and what prompted that action,” Halladay said in a statement, reported by the station. “So we have said that we will do that and if there needs to be discipline we will address it.”
But in Los Angeles, KCRW journalist Cerise Castle tweeted a photo one of the rubber bullets that she said police fired at her and protestors. One of them hit her.
Hennessy-Fiske, the Los Angeles Times reporter in Minneapolis, wrote that what she experienced there was unlike anything she’s been through in a career that has taken her to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and protests in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Dallas.
“I have never been fired at by police,” she wrote Saturday, “until tonight.”