Violence Hits Home: Philadelphia Journalists Attacked by Police, Armed Gangs
The pattern of confrontations between armed police and protesters and journalists has reached Philadelphia.
As hot spots of protest against institutionalized racism multiply in the United States, scenes of police violence also increase.
In Philadelphia, and while the protests have been largely peaceful since Sunday, some protesters marching on Broad Street found a police cordon that soon turned into beatings and riots.
According to the local CBS affiliate, a fight broke out between an officer and a protester, which ended up on the ground. Eventually the protester ended up in custody, as did many others during the day.
As of noon Sunday, there were about 60 arrests in the city, police said.
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) June 1, 2020
On Monday, the protests continued as elsewhere in the country, and eventually "chaos erupted," Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Kristen A. Graham, said in an opinion column.
As thousands of people moved from 8th and Race to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, "the crowd was vocal, angry." But, as Graham explained, "I saw no violence.”
When they reached the Vine Street Expressway around 5 p.m., the police fired tear gas into the adjacent crowd. Once the curfew began, an hour later, the journalist began to retreat, taking pictures in the path of the police buses, when she was stopped by police officers.
Police blocking 676 entrance. Seems like tear gas for sure. My eyes are burning. pic.twitter.com/diWGmTLC47
— Kristen Graham (@newskag) June 1, 2020
"They put my hands behind my back, took the helmet I was wearing off my head, took my backpack away," she said.
“The officers led me by both arms to a waiting bus. I was the first inside; more than 20 women joined me eventually; one crying as she was led in. Multiple people, including a journalist from the Wilmington News-Journal, said they were also walking or riding home when they were detained. Some shouted ‘Black Lives Matter!’ as they boarded,” she explained.
“I am a born and bred Philadelphian, an Inquirer journalist for the past two decades. I’ve covered shootings and protests, fires and funerals, calamities of all kinds, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like what I saw Monday,” she concluded. “I’m still not sure how to explain it to my children.”
Jon Ehrens, a reporter for WHYY, also shared in social media an image of his bloody face after a group of armed, white men beat him up for filming them.
I got called out for recording them and they beat the shit out of me and pushed my girlfriend pic.twitter.com/JMeR4SJ7y9
— Jon Ehrens (@jwehrens) June 2, 2020
Similarly, freelance journalist and former AL DÍA team member, Emily Neil, shared on Twitter her experience accompanying the demonstration to the intersection of 52nd and Chestnut in West Philadelphia, where police had set up a roadblock.
"I was in that crowd, taking photos from the other side of the street when the police launched tear gas canisters," she explained.
As you can hear in this video I recorded, a man to my left yells to the officers not to do anything because he is recording. The block was pretty deserted at that point besides the man filming and myself. The sound at the end is the rubber bullets being fired at us. pic.twitter.com/J8JGFIDUrr
— Emily Neil (@E_B_Neil) June 2, 2020
As she recorded how the police were arresting people allegedly involved in the looting of Foot Locker, Neil and the people around her were hit with rubber bullets.
"I stood on the ground for a moment and the shooting stopped," she described. "Someone came to help me up, and another person pressed something on my head to stop the bleeding."
Despite not having an ID that could prove her work in the field as a journalist, Neil said the attacks felt unjustified.
"Was there justification for shooting the man filming next to me, and not me, because of where or how we were going to share and publish the information we were gathering?" she asked. "The officer fired at us because we were filming, and that's significant whether we're affiliated reporters or not, or even reporters at all."