A US congressional committee investigating police actions in a park near the White House has been told the “attack” on an Australian TV news crew was unlawful.
Seven Network correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were in Washington DC’s Lafayette Square on June 1 covering protests when Park Police began aggressively clearing the area.
The protests followed the Minneapolis police arrest death of George Floyd.
Brace and Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, testified before the US House Committee on Natural Resources on Monday.
Brace told the committee she was shot in the legs and backside with non-lethal rounds from a police automatic weapon and hit with a truncheon.
She said Myers was shot, punched and struck with a police riot shield.
“I think that attack was unlawful,” Turley told the hearing.
“From the video it seems clear to me that any officer could have seen that the Australian journalists were in fact journalists.
“They identified themselves correctly as journalists.
“I thought I saw media credentials on them, but also they knew there were journalists in the area.
“This one doesn’t strike me as a very close call.”
The police clearing operation came ahead of the arrival of US President Donald Trump in Lafayette Square for a photo opportunity outside St John’s Episcopal Church holding a bible.
Brace and Myers were broadcasting live back to Australia when riot police began forming a line in front of them, before they charged at protesters and media members.
“When you were attacked by this police officer, were you resisting?” Democrat congressman Ruben Gallego asked Brace.
“No,” she replied.
“Was your cameraman resisting?” Gallego asked.
“No,” Brace replied.
“You had your back to them, as I remember, and you were fleeing?” he asked.
“That’s correct,” she replied.
Brace told the committee it was imperative for democracy that journalists were allowed to safely report from the scenes of protests.
“As a reporter I have no interest in becoming the story, but over recent weeks many of us have been left with no choice,” she said.
“I’ve been shocked to see how many journalists have been attacked, beaten and detained, just for doing their jobs.
“Covering protests does carry unavoidable risks, but the media’s role is essential.
“We don’t just have a right to be there, we have an obligation.
“As Australian journalists we are the eyes and the ears of our people.
“In this case witnessing civil unrest in the capital of our most powerful and closest ally.
“It is crucial to democracy that journalists be allowed to do their job freely and safely and that is certainly something we should expect in the world’s greatest democracy.”