Tense protests broke out in Baltimore on Saturday in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody after a serious back injury. During the protests, at least one journalist was detained and another was injured by police.
J.M. Giordano, photo editor for the City Paper, was taking pictures of interactions between protesters and police when an unknown protester threw a rock, which hit a police officer’s shield. The officers moved forward in response, and Giordano was knocked to the ground and struck repeatedly.
“They just swarmed over me. I got hit. My head hit the ground. They were hitting me, then someone pulled me out. I kept shooting it. As soon as I got up I started taking pictures.”
Managing Editor Baynard Woods, who was standing nearby recording the incident on video, called out to police, “He’s a photographer! He’s press!”
The video shows police swarming over Giodarno and another man and beating them while other officers surge forward, pushing the line of protesters back. Giodarno reportedly suffered an injury to his arm and multiple bruises from the incident. However, Giodarno was not arrested, and he believes this is because the police eventually recognized him as a local reporter.
Baltimore police spokesperson Capt. Eric Kowalczyk explained that journalists are supposed to be able to freely document interactions between police and protesters, but that it can be difficult for officers to distinguish members of the press in the heat of the moment.
Woods took to Twitter on Sunday to deny reports that the police had tackled Giodarno to protect him from being robbed.
— Baynard Woods (@baynardwoods) April 26, 2015
Also during the incident, Reuters journalist Sait Serkan Gurbuz said that he was detained while taking pictures near the same location. He was later released once police realized who he was, and Kowalczyk apologized, but Gurbuz he was still issued a citation for “failure to obey orders.” A Reuters spokeswoman said she hoped the police will take greater care to respect journalists in the future.
“Serkan was on a public sidewalk and the events were happening in plain view. We do not agree with the police’s citation for ‘failure to obey orders,’ as Serkan backed away from the scene when the police demanded that he do so, or with the way in which he was treated by the police. We hope the Department will dismiss the citation and, in the future, respect the First Amendment right of the press to lawfully take images in the public interest.”
A reporter for a Russian publication was also reportedly knocked down and robbed, though this appears to have been done by protesters.
Police were dressed in riot gear, holding shields and carrying batons. As the Inquisitr reported earlier, objects were thrown at police and multiple police cruisers were damaged.
According to NPR, at least 34 people have been arrested so far, but police say that apart from a small number of violent protesters, the protests were “mostly peaceful.”
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]