Democrat and Chronicle photographers hit with pepper balls while covering protests in Rochester

Two photographers with the Democrat and Chronicle, Jamie Germano and Shawn Dowd, were hit with crowd-control munitions while covering protests in Rochester, New York, on Sept. 4, 2020.Demonstrators that night had marched to the city’s Public Safety Bui…

Two photographers with the Democrat and Chronicle, Jamie Germano and Shawn Dowd, were hit with crowd-control munitions while covering protests in Rochester, New York, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Demonstrators that night had marched to the city’s Public Safety Building in protest of the death of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died by asphyxiation while in the custody of Rochester police in March. Details surrounding his death came to light only after police body camera footage was released on Sept. 2. The protest was just one of many held across the nation throughout the summer in protest of police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dowd told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in a phone interview that upon arriving in the area he and Germano split up, to more fully document the scene. Dowd said he made his way to the front of the crowd, where police had lined up along a barricade they’d set up earlier in the evening. At one point, Dowd said, “The police opened up with pepper balls to drive the protesters back,” adding, “We all got lit up.”

Dowd said he “took a shot to the side of the head,” as well as in the neck and ear. He said that he turned to protect himself and in a second volley “took a couple in the back, one in the back of the legs and then one to the foot.”

Dowd said he’d decided to avoid wearing insignia marking him as a working member of the press due anti-media sentiment he’d encountered from demonstrators at prior protests, but he said he did have his press badge around his neck.

Germano told the Tracker that the police rushed the protesters to push them back over the Court Street Bridge and then began with a volley of pepper balls. He was hit in the legs and hands. Pepper ball residue got on his camera, but he didn’t notice until he’d gotten home that night. Each time that he lifted the camera to his face to take a picture, he said, his eyes and face burned.

Germano said that he “was never trying to get in the way” and that he felt like “collateral damage” due to his closeness to protesters.

When the police officers “would open fire,” Dowd said, “it seemed like they were just spraying.”

The Rochester Police Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment as of press time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas or having their equipment damaged while covering Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Find these incidents here. Find all incidents in Rochester, New York, here.


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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