Independent journalists sprayed with chemical irritant while covering Seattle protest

Independent videographers Scott Keeler and Melissa Lewis were hit with a chemical irritant sprayed by a police officer while covering a Seattle protest on Oct. 3, 2020.The Portland-based journalists were covering one of the many protests held in Seattl…

Independent videographers Scott Keeler and Melissa Lewis were hit with a chemical irritant sprayed by a police officer while covering a Seattle protest on Oct. 3, 2020.

The Portland-based journalists were covering one of the many protests held in Seattle since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

The Oct. 3 protest began at night around 7 p.m. in Cal Anderson Park, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Demonstrators marched on Broadway, with some protesters vandalizing buildings with graffiti. In response, Seattle Police officers used pepper spray and arrested 16 people, according to the Seattle Times.

Lewis told the Tracker the incident occurred after the protesters returned to Cal Anderson Park. “We were told repeatedly as press that we had to disperse, that we had no right to be there and no right to film, which is bananas, and despite how many times we IDed as press and showed credentials,” she said.

At 9:27 p.m., Keeler tweeted a photo of a camera covered in a substance, writing that he and Lewis had taken “a direct hit of mace while filming an arrest.”

Keeler, who did not respond to a request for comment, posted a video of the incident on Twitter about an hour later, showing Seattle police in riot gear arresting a number of people on East Denny Way, on the north end of Cal Anderson Park. About 10 seconds in, a police officer is seen firing pepper spray at a group of people, and the spray hits Keeler’s phone.

Lewis told the Tracker she believes they were deliberately targeted by the officer. “I got mace on my camera and on my gimbal,” she said. “I was able to wash it off. But I don’t love getting mace on my equipment.”

The Seattle Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.


This content originally appeared on U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents and was authored by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents.


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