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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told his country's embassy in the U.S. to launch an investigation Tuesday after an Australian TV news team was assaulted by police while reporting live from the protests in front of the White House.
Amelia Brace, the U.S. correspondent for Australia’s Channel 7 News, and cameraman Tim Myers were live on Australian breakfast television reporting on a protest outside the White House when they were caught up in a push by riot police to clear the area ahead of a 7 p.m. curfew.
Footage circulated online shows one officer hitting Myers — who is propped against a wall filming at the time — with his shield, and swiftly following up with a punch.
The live broadcast continued as Brace and Myers scrambled out of the way of the charging police line.
“You heard us yelling there that we were media but they don’t care, they are being indiscriminate at the moment,” Brace said on air, before police launched a further push to clear the protests.
“Jesus Christ, we’re getting hit by rubber bullets now, guys.”
She later said she “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 incident, just one of many police attacks on journalists during days of unrest in the U.S., has prompted outrage in Australia. Morrison instructed the embassy in DC to investigate the incident and move to register Australia’s concerns with local authorities. He also told Channel Seven the government would back them if they pursued any formal complaint.
Australia opposition leader Anthony Albanese also condemned the police’s actions, calling it “completely unacceptable.”
Dozens of journalists covering anti-racism protests have been targeted by police in recent days with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, despite identifying themselves as members of the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists has described the attacks as “an unacceptable attempt to intimidate” reporters.
Among those attacked were VICE News reporter Michael Anthony Adams, who was thrown to the ground and pepper sprayed in the face in Minneapolis Sunday, even after shouting repeatedly that he was a member of the press. That assault happened two days after freelance journalist Linda Tirado blinded after being shot in the eye with what she believed was a rubber bullet during protests in the same city.
In Long Beach, California, radio reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was shot in the throat with a rubber bullet while covering protests Sunday.
Police have also arrested journalists who are carrying out their work covering the protests, including an entire CNN crew which was detained live on air while reporting from Minneapolis Friday.
The US Press Freedom Tracker, a non-profit monitoring project, said it was investigating an “unprecedented” surge of complaints in recent days.
“We've documented 100-150 press freedom violations in the US per year, for the last 3 years. We are currently investigating *over 100* FROM JUST THE LAST 3 DAYS,” the group tweeted Monday.
Cover: Police begin to clear demonstrators gather as they protest the death of George Floyd, Monday, June 1, 2020, near the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)