As Protests Ramped Up Across The Country, So Did Police Brutality

Officers arrested reporters, attacked citizens and clashed with protesters as Americans demonstrated in memory of George Floyd and others killed by police.

As protests against police killings and inequality stretched into their fifth night in cities across the U.S., law enforcement officers geared up to go to battle with their own citizens. And in some cases, police brutality was on full display.

It was a weekend of violence between American authorities and the citizenry. Over the course of several days of protests ― prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other deaths and instances of injustice ― major cities burned as protesters lashed out at police and the government.

The authoritarian response to those demonstrations was often cruel.

Linda Tirado, a freelance writer in Minneapolis, says she’s “permanently blind” in her left eye after allegedly being hit by a rubber bullet or tracer round fired by authorities on Friday. Tirado said she’d identified herself as press but was shot with a projectile anyway.

A protestor is assisted by medic protestors after being hit by tear gas near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration t
A protestor is assisted by medic protestors after being hit by tear gas near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration to call for justice for George Floyd, a Black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Reports and videos have emerged from all over the country of police firing so-called “less-lethal” rounds at protesters, shoving them to the ground or otherwise beating them, and using other means of force.

On Saturday, the reports were similarly dire.

In Louisville, Kentucky ― where people have taken to the streets in memory of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old former EMT shot and killed by officers serving a warrant at her home ― reporters posted video of officers apparently confiscating and destroying water stores held by protesters. 

The night before, Louisville police fired what appeared to be pepper balls directly at Kaitlin Rust, a journalist at WAVE 3, and her crew. The company caught the attack on camera.

In New York City on Saturday, an NYPD cruiser was caught on video careening into a crowd of protesters. It was unclear how many were injured. Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly called the incident “troubling” in an interview with NY1, but it wasn’t clear whether there would be an internal investigation.

“NYPD officers just drove an SUV into a crowd of human beings. They could’ve killed them, & we don’t know how many they injured,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Saturday night. “NO ONE gets to slam an SUV through a crowd of human beings.”

Officers in various places reportedly continued to target journalists on Saturday. HuffPost senior reporter Chris Mathias was detained amid protests in Brooklyn, New York, after reportedly identifying himself as a member of the press. Mathias, who covers the far right, disinformation and hate, had been reporting for days on the protests, and was wearing a press identification card around his neck at the time of his arrest.

After the dust had settled in New York City, de Blasio told a local TV station that he thought the NYPD showed “tremendous restraint” on Saturday night.

In Minneapolis, police reportedly fired tear gas at reporters “at point blank range,” and a Vice News reporter says he was thrown to the ground, held down and pepper sprayed by police after identifying himself as press.

MSNBC host Ali Velshi, an NBC News reporter and their crews were reportedly tear gassed and struck by rubber bullets in Minneapolis. Separately, a CBS News crew was shot with rubber bullets despite being nowhere near protesters.

In Salt Lake City, police knocked down an older man with a cane who was standing alone on the street.

Early Sunday morning, another reporter in Minneapolis said authorities shot out his car window with “live rounds,” and posted pictures of himself bleeding from his face and arm.

In Denver, Rev. Melech E. M. Thomas tweeted that police had fired rubber bullets at his sister, even after she had fallen to the ground.

Studies have repeatedly shown that rubber bullets and other so-called “less-lethal” rounds are in fact deadly. One review of dozens of studies found that 15% of those injured by those projectiles were left permanently disabled, while 3% died, according to The Guardian.

President Trump has for years been stoking violence between authorities, protesters and especially the press, which he deems the “enemy of the people.” In the week leading up to the clashes between protesters and cops, Trump tweeted a racist call for authorities to shoot demonstrators, saying, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He also implored authorities to “get tough and fight (and arrest the bad ones).”