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Countless* members of the press have been targeted and assaulted by the police for covering the current protests in the US.

Has president Trump or his administration responded to these attacks? Have the perpetrators been arrested and charged, and/or are there official investigations into this?

* 120+ by Nick Waters running count, 130+ by Nimanlab, 233+ by US press freedom tracker

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    Re "countless": Nick Waters includes a running count; (at the moment the count is up to #123), the question would be better if it provided a current ballpark estimate.
    – agc
    Jun 4 '20 at 5:28
  • @agc Thanks, I added that estimate and two others from my links.
    – tim
    Jun 4 '20 at 7:08
  • Are there any specific cases where there is evidence that journalists were targeted for what they doing, rather than where they were? Anywhere that journalists get less protection by police than other citizens? Jun 5 '20 at 20:50
  • @Burt_Harris It's hard to know the objective reasons why one person gets attacked over another, but what's clear is that there are many cases where 1) the police know the people they're attacking are journalists 2) they're doing their job, not rioting, committing violence, or anything that would merit violence.
    – divibisan
    Jun 5 '20 at 21:29
  • You can see a list of all incidents at the US Press Freedom Tracker, while this page is filtered to 9 cases (since George Floyd's death) where journalists were specifically targeted and physically attacked by law enforcement.
    – divibisan
    Jun 5 '20 at 21:30
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There have been several incidents, and several responses, but the most widely covered seems to be the case of the CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez and his crew, who were arrested and released about an hour later. Today, the Minnesota governor personally apologized to the reporter, and accepted responsibility for the incident.

One initial explanation for the arrest seems to be that the initial version of an emergency curfew ordered in Minneapolis did not make an exception for reporters, though this was later addressed by amending the curfew.

I'm not sure why you think the Federal Government would be involved in this case as it is really at the state level. Crowd control actions in Washington DC, particularly those by the U.S. Park Police, might be a notable exception. The incident described in @divibisan's answer will be worth watching.

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    Trump has been very vocal about other aspects of the demonstrations, so I think it's not unreasonable to think that he might have responded to this as well. And as you pointed out, some of the assaults involve federal agencies. I'm not too familiar with how investigations into law enforcement misconduct is generally done, but eg in the case of George Floyd, the FBI is also investigating even though he was killed by local police. But for the purpose of this question, any investigations or actions taken by local institutions is also on topic.
    – tim
    Jun 4 '20 at 7:15
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    Federal: Trump has also been notoriously quick to issue pardons for other instances of uniformed misconduct, up to and including actual murder. Perhaps the more deviant officers therefore believe that even if they were to be convicted of some crime with a federal component, that they too might be pardoned.
    – agc
    Jun 4 '20 at 17:23
  • @Burt_Harris, Sorry, I'd meant to link to Trump pardons Michael Behenna, who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner - The Washington Post.
    – agc
    Jun 5 '20 at 10:41
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Attacks on foreign journalists reporting in the US seem to have drawn a stronger response, since they have a government willing to fight on their behalf. For example, 2 Australian journalists were recently attacked in Washington DC by, reportedly, the United States Park Police.

This attack has drawn sharp criticism from the Australian Prime Minister and led to a formal complaint and demand for an investigation:

The Australian prime minister has called for an investigation into how police officers treated two Australian journalists who were covering a protest outside the White House on Monday.

The two journalists, on assignment for Australia’s Channel 7, one of the nation’s major networks, were among the members of the news media covering the demonstration as President Trump threatened a crackdown on protests in a speech delivered from the Rose Garden starting at 6:43 p.m.

...

“I understand that Channel 7 will make a formal police complaint asking to have the matter investigated,” Mr. Sinodinos [the Australian ambassador to the United States] said. “We are in discussion with the State Department, and they have offered assistance to identify where the complaint should be targeted.”

While the US ambassador has only made vague public statements, 2 officers have been placed on desk duty and an investigation has been opened:

The U.S. ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., issued a statement of support for the news media on Tuesday, although he did not directly address the Channel 7 journalists.

... On Wednesday, the day after this article was published online, the acting chief of the United States Park Police, Gregory T. Monahan, issued a statement: “As is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two U.S. Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian press.”

Australia Asks for Investigation After Police Attack 2 Journalists in U.S. - The New York Times (June, 2nd, 2020)


In a recent press conference, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has defended the officers and denied that they used "tear gas" or rubber bullets:

Ms Brace and Mr Myers, who were doing a live cross back to Australia when they were struck, said they were also shot with rubber bullets and struggled to breathe after tear gas was fired into the crowd.

Ms McEnany rejected that and said the police had "a right to defend themselves".

"No tear gas was used and no rubber bullets were used," Ms McEnany said.

When a reporter countered by asking if "chemical agents were used" she replied: "So, again, no tear gas was used, no rubber bullets were used". Ms McEnany said the protesters in the park were told three times over loudspeakers they needed to move, became unruly and threw bricks and frozen water bottles at police.

"The officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back," she said.

Donald Trump's press secretary says police who attacked Australian journalists 'had right to defend themselves' - SBS News (June 4th, 2020)

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  • Yes, OC vs CS is irrelevant, but saying "rubber bullets" were being fired is misleading. The modern equivalent of rubber bullets, such as bean bags, are definitely not intended for crowd control. Jun 5 '20 at 20:15
  • @Burt_Harris I don't know for sure about the Lafayette square incident specifically, but rubber bullets are absolutely being used by police across the country. Here's a story with a number of pictures and sources: thecut.com/2020/06/rubber-bullets-are-not-rubber.html
    – divibisan
    Jun 5 '20 at 20:58
  • Yes, so called rubber bullets are used in many locations, but typically only on someone armed with a knife. Jun 5 '20 at 23:21
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No, so far I can find no direct acknowledgement of this issue coming from the Trump administration to date. The NY Times noted on June 1:

The arrest of the CNN team drew criticism from First Amendment advocates and an apology from Minnesota’s governor, but there have been dozens of other instances of journalists receiving rough treatment at the hands of police officers while covering the protests.

[...]

On Sunday, Mr. Trump blamed the “Lamestream Media” for the protests in a tweet, calling journalists “truly bad people with a sick agenda.”

Not to defend this silence, but one could argue that a more immediate response at the state level might be expected prior to any federal intervention. However the ACLU has already filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis regarding the arrest of Jared Goyette, a freelance reporter.

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