Prime Minister Scott Morrison has instructed Australia’s embassy in the United States to “urgently” investigate after a reporter and cameraman were knocked down by police during a protest in Washington DC following George Floyd’s death.
Channel 7 News US correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were crossing live to Australian breakfast show ‘Sunrise’ from a protest outside the White House on Monday evening (Tuesday morning in Australia) when the incident occurred and was broadcast on live TV.
“The Prime Minister has informed us he’s been in touch with our embassy in Washington to have the matter urgently investigated,” Seven’s Network Director of News and Public Affairs, Craig McPherson, said in a statement to HuffPost Australia.
“We are making our own complaints through the appropriate channels.”
The Prime Minister had spoken to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning but was reportedly unaware of this incident. Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had earlier called for Australia’s ambassador to the US to make an official complaint.
In the footage that aired on television, Brace was reporting live from a protest outside the White House as police began clearing the protestors to make way for the US President by firing projectiles and tear gas upon American citizens protesting peacefully.
As Brace and Myers tried to take cover behind a wall, police approached, pushed Brace back with a shield and and punched Myers.
“My cameraman has been hit,” Brace said in the clip.
“You heard us yelling there that we were media but they don’t care, they’re being indiscriminate at the moment. They chased us down the street as you see.”
Detailing their injuries, she said, “I actually managed to get a rubber bullet to the backside and Tim got one in the back of the neck so we’ll have a few bruises tomorrow but we’re perfectly safe”.
“The attack on our reporter and cameraman in Washington today is nothing short of wanton thuggery,” said Seven’s McPherson.
“They weren’t in anyone’s way just simply doing their job. To be belted with an armoured shield and then our reporter cop a truncheon in the back is abhorrent.”
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Anthony Albanese called for the Australian government to take action.
“The ambassador certainly should be making representations on behalf of these Australians, who effectively have been assaulted — that’s what it is — for doing their job,” he told reporters.
“In a democratic society, the role of the media is critical and it’s important that the media are able to report on events, including crises such as we’re seeing in the United States, free from harassment.
“And the violence that has occurred towards members of the media, Australian media and domestic media as well, with tear gas being fired, with media being assaulted, is completely unacceptable.”
While journalists have worked to cover protests in the past few days, some faced arrest while doing their jobs.
HuffPost reporter Chris Mathias was taken into custody Saturday while covering anti-racism protests in New York City.
Mathias, a senior reporter who covers the far right, disinformation and hate, had been reporting for days on the protests, prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He was in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn when police took him into custody.
Mathias was released Sunday around 1 a.m. after being taken to the 72nd Precinct in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn.
Police arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez while they covered protests in Minneapolis on Friday morning. Las Vegas police arrested two photojournalists, Las Vegas Review-Journal staff photographer Ellen Schmidt and freelancer Bridget Bennett, on Friday as well, along with about 80 protesters.
The US president said Monday that he supported peaceful protests, even as federal law enforcement fired tear gas, pepper balls and flash-bang grenades at nonviolent protesters just outside the White House.
He claimed without evidence that peaceful protests had been infiltrated by “professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, rioters, antifa and others.”
“These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump added, detailing misleading and sometimes exaggerated examples of property destruction and violence that he linked to the protesters.
“I am mobilising all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
With additional reporting by HuffPost US team.