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Anti-Lockdown Protesters Get in Reporters’ (Masked) Faces


Journalists covering the pandemic have faced the wrath of individuals United Nations agency square measure against social-distancing restrictions

For some reporters, the up-close wrath of anti-lockdown protesters has develop into a hazard of the job.

On the steps of the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, shortly earlier than a information convention held by Gov. Mike DeWine, Adrienne Robbins, a reporter on the native NBC affiliate, discovered herself on the receiving finish of a tirade that was captured on video.

The confrontation occurred on Might 1, when Ms. Robbins was checking in with the protesters who had gathered to point out their opposition to the restrictions which have been in place since March to protect in opposition to the unfold of the coronavirus.


One protester moved near the reporter, whose face was partly lined by a surgical masks consistent with the governor’s request that reporters put on protecting gear at information conferences. Ms. Robbins requested the protester to offer her some area, to no avail. Elevating her voice, the protester complained in regards to the information media usually and the station Ms. Robbins labored for. She accused the reporter of “terrifying most people.”

Meet the senior residents who’re nonetheless protesting(Opens in a new browser tab)

“You recognize that the corporate that you simply work for is mendacity to the American folks,” the protester mentioned, jabbing a finger within the reporter’s route, “and you recognize that what you might be doing is fallacious.”

As Ms. Robbins stood there, her eyeglasses began fogging up above the masks.

“You see how nervous you might be?” the protester mentioned. “You’re shaking. You might be sweating.”

Ultimately, the reporter’s glasses slipped from her face and broke on the bottom. Ms. Robbins picked them up and walked away. The protester adopted, persevering with to berate her. (The protester couldn’t be reached for remark.)


“The massive factor she mentioned was we’re spreading concern and wish to scare folks,” Ms. Robbins mentioned in an interview. “That’s offensive to me. I’m from Fredericktown, Ohio, about an hour north of right here. My mother watches these information conferences; my grandparents watch them. I might by no means wish to scare them. However I would like them to know what’s happening.”


Journalists in no less than three different states have been concerned in altercations at anti-lockdown protests in current weeks. In Germany, reporters overlaying comparable protests have been victims of at least four assaults, according to the International Press Institute.


Anna Liz Nichols, an intern at Michigan Advance, a nonprofit news site, covered a protest two weeks ago that included armed opponents of the state’s lockdown. Inside the statehouse in Lansing, Mich., she was hit on the left side of her face by a man’s rifle — accidentally, Ms. Nichols believes.


“The nature of the rally was described as peaceful by the police,” she said in an interview. “But there was no room in the Capitol. There were hardly any masks, and people were being careless with their firearms to the point where it didn’t matter if they were loaded or not, they could hurt people with them.”

In a polarized time, public safety measures like social-distancing and mask-wearing have become grist for the culture wars. Coupled with President Trump’s frequent criticisms of individual news outlets and certain reporters, the recent confrontations between protesters and journalists seem almost inevitable.


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“This is an extension of the general antagonistic feeling that we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” said María Salazar Ferro, the emergencies director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

She added, “In general, we have seen increased hostility that’s generally fueled by public discourse coming from the president, local officials and other types of personalities.”

President Trump’s attacks on the news media for playing up the crisis or not giving the federal government enough credit for its response have fueled the anger, she added.


The Committee to Protect Journalists issued guidelines to reporters who cover anti-lockdown protests. “Remain alert to the risk of people spitting / coughing close to or on you, either accidentally or deliberately,” it says.


Last month, in Huntington Beach, Calif., a camera operator for a Fox affiliate who had been filming an anti-lockdown rally said a man brandished a knife and forced him to delete video, a police department spokeswoman confirmed. The camera operator declined to be interviewed. A Fox spokeswoman said it was not clear if the man with the knife was a protester. The suspect has been charged with kidnapping, the police department spokeswoman said.


Last week in Phoenix, BrieAnna J. Frank, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, was outside a mask-making facility as it prepared for a visit from President Trump, she recounted in an interview.

After Ms. Frank tried to interview protesters, a few who had declined to be interviewed started criticizing her for wearing a mask, she said. She told them she was wearing it partly because her mother is a nurse who has worked with Covid-19 patients, and she wanted to protect the people around her.


“You’re on the wrong side of history,” one protester said to Ms. Frank and the other reporters covering the event. “You’re on the wrong side of patriotism,” another protester said. “You guys are anti-patriots. You’re like communists.”


Another protester used vulgar language to insult the journalists.

Ms. Frank said, “I think that some of the folks there interpreted wearing a mask or being a journalist as representative of a larger issue.”

“I don’t necessarily think it was about us,” she added. “It wasn’t a personal attack. It was that, based off what they said, masks, to them, are doing more harm than good and are spreading fear and paranoia.”

Susan Beachy contributed research.



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