Police in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared to intentionally fire rubber bullets at a television reporter while she was covering the unrest in the city, the latest apparent incident of police officers targeting journalists who have reported on the nationwide protests.
Protesters took to the streets in Louisville to demonstrate against the killing of Breonna Taylor by police and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As WAVE reporter Kaitlin Rust was covering the protests in the city’s downtown area, a police officer — who had been part of a line of officers — appeared to take aim with a gun that fires rubber bullets, a less lethal weapon used for crowd control during times of unrest.
Reporters at WAVE noted that Rust had moved exactly where she was told to move, but the officer still opened fire and appeared to take aim directly at her and members of the film crew.
LIVE ON @wave3news – something I’ve never seen in my career.
An armed officer shooting directly at our reporter @KaitlinRustWAVE and photographer @jbtcardfan during the protests in #Louisville.
My prayers are going out to everyone tonight.
Such a scary situation for all. pic.twitter.com/Ipg0DjFIXu
— Lauren Jones (@LaurenWAVE3TV) May 30, 2020
Video of the incident attracted viral interest on Friday as the actions of police across the country have come under scrutiny, with many critics accusing departments of adopting heavy-handed tactics in response to protests. Many criticized Louisville police for firing at the reporter when it was clear she was broadcasting with a news crew. Journalists have traditionally been permitted to cover protests without facing police action, given that they obey commands about where they can report from and when they may need to move from a dangerous area.
As WAVE noted, protests in the city turned violent on Thursday as many angry protesters called for justice for Taylor.
“Seven people were shot and two officers were hospitalized following the protests Thursday night, an effort to have action taken against three LMPD officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor in March,” the report noted. “Taylor was shot during a no-knock warrant that was being served at her home.”
The incident in Louisville was one of a series of events in which police officers appeared to target journalists during the recent protests. In Denver, a photographer working for the Denver Post said a police officer intentionally fired two pepper balls at him while he was covering the city’s demonstrations, leaving him with a gash in his arm, and his eyes and throat burning from the powdered chemicals in the ball. And earlier on Friday morning, members of the Minnesota state police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez during a live broadcast, prompting Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to issue a public apology.