A press photographer was attacked during Black Lives Matter protests in London last night as members of the media faced intimidation from some in the crowd.
NUJ-accredited freelance photographer Anthony, who prefers not to reveal his surname, was taken to hospital after he was hit in the head with a bottle. He needed stitches and suffered a slight concussion.
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Anthony told Press Gazette he was feeling dazed and “a little bit shocked and stunned” by the incident, which took place in Whitehall.
He said he had been covering the protest over the death of George Floyd in the US since it started in Hyde Park at about 12pm yesterday, but it only became violent after the main group of protesters went home at 5pm.
At about 6.45pm, he said he noticed a “mob” of 20 to 30 people haranguing a pair of journalists being led away by police. In a video of the incident (below), protesters can be heard shouting “fuck the Daily Mail”.
This protest is simmering on the brink. After a period of calm, it almost escalates as journalists are hounded away from Downing Street with chants of “fu*k the Daily Mail”@LBC #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/iaaqOdRTWD
— Matthew Thompson (@mattuthompson) June 3, 2020
Anthony said: “[The journalists] were led along Whitehall at speed and I was trying to film this incident when, from nowhere, I was hit with a glass bottle over the forehead and blacked out.
“I found myself on the ground with a lot of people around me. Thankfully a lot of the protesters there had formed a kind of cordon around me and protected me – 99% of the people there were very kind.”
But he said there was still “a lot of people baying for blood, saying ‘he’s Daily Mail, he deserved it’”. He was tended to by police before paramedics arrived and later took him by ambulance to St Thomas’ Hospital.
Police have told him they do not expect to be able to catch the culprit.
Anthony said: “It was scary. I’ve been doing this now for ten years maybe, freelancing video, and I’ve been to protests before, lots of them, and not experienced that kind of tension in the air.
“I know there’s a couple of protests this weekend – I’m not going, but I hope they provide some better policing to look after the press in particular, because they did seem to be a target.”
Sky News producer Andy Hughes shared a photo of Anthony sitting on the floor with blood on his face and t-shirt.
UPDATE – a journalist has just been attacked with a bottle to his head at the #BlackLivesMatter protest outside Downing Street. Witnesses say he was filming an arrest when he was attacked by a group shouting “f**k the daily mail.”
He said he doesn’t work for that newspaper. pic.twitter.com/uyQ4V6oqT4
— Andy Hughes (@SkyAndyHughes) June 3, 2020
Earlier in the day an Australian news correspondent covering the protests in London was grabbed by a man live on air.
Nine News Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh screamed as the incident happened, before telling viewers: “Sorry, I just had someone come up and try… Sorry… A man just came up and grabbed me but it’s okay he’s not armed. A man just came up and grabbed me though.”
— Nine News Perth (@9NewsPerth) June 3, 2020
The channel reported that the man shouted “Allahu Akbar” and made motions to stab her. Walsh’s cameraman chased the man down and helped to detain him before police arrived.
Soofuu Yakr, aged 26 and of no fixed address, pleaded guilty this morning at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to assault, possession of an offensive weapon and possession of cannabis.
He will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on a date yet to be set.
Walsh’s Nine News colleague, Europe correspondent Ben Avery, was forced to abandon his live coverage of the protest as he was chased by a mob.
Avery later tweeted: “Thanks to everyone for your concern after this. Had been a peaceful protest until things took a turn late. The microphone was pulled from my hand and we were chased down the street by a large group.
“Big thanks to rock solid cameraman Cade Thompson, our security guard and police.”
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) June 3, 2020
Press Gazette has contacted the Metropolitan Police for more information on these incidents.
The National Union of Journalists said it has also received reports from photographers of “unacceptable and abusive” behaviour from police officers on duty at the protests, including pushing, shoving and verbal harassment.
The NUJ said it is raising these concerns with the National Police Chiefs Council.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet called for political leaders to “do more to stem this spiralling antagonism and act to stamp out attacks on journalists”.
“When the US president decries journalists as enemies of the people, when he launches vitriolic attacks on the ‘lamestream’ media, when he talks of journalists as being part of a conspiracy against the public to disseminate fake news – this pollutes political and public discourse and fans the flames of hatred,” Stanistreet said.
“We’re seeing the same pattern of polarisation here, particularly on social media where bullying and intimidation of journalists is commonplace, with particular vitriol directed against women and journalists of colour. Words have consequences. Intemperate and polarised rhetoric on social media has real-life results.”
Rebecca Vincent, UK bureau director of press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders, said: “This comes after weeks of senior officials telling the public not to believe the media, whipping up the online ‘scum media’ mob, and now manifesting in physical aggression and violence.
“This government’s intentional fuelling of hostility towards media must stop now.”
“Scum media” has recently been trending on social media, increasing in frequency after some defended Dominic Cummings against accusations that he breached lockdown rules to travel from London to Durham, as revealed by the Guardian and Mirror.
The unrest at the London protest followed more than a week of daily protests in the US over the killing of black man George Floyd as he was being arrested.
In the US, more than 100 journalists are believed to have been assaulted, arrested or had their equipment damaged between Friday and Sunday night, mostly by US police, including a British press photographer who was arrested and charged despite identifying himself as press.
Picture: Nine News screenshot