One photojournalist was beaten by Baltimore police and another detained on Saturday night during protests in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray. Gray, 25, was violently arrested on April 12 and died a week later in police custody; Baltimore police have acknowledged their mistakes in the handling of Gray but still have not answered key questions about the incident — like how Gray’s spine became “80 percent severed at his neck.”
J.M. Giordano, photo editor for the Baltimore City Paper, was tackled by police officers on Saturday night while covering the protests, after someone nearby threw a rock at the police line. “They just swarmed over me. I got hit. My head hit the ground. They were hitting me, then someone pulled me out,” he told the City Paper. Several police officers hit Giordano in the head with their shields, and his “face [was] pretty much smushed down on the ground,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
In a video of the incident shot by City Paper Managing Editor Baynard Woods, you can see police manhandling and hitting Giordano, who wears a green jacket, while Woods yells, “He’s a photographer! He’s press!” While at the time the desperate yelling asks police to recognize Giordano as an exception, watching the video after the fact seems to chillingly underscore that no one should be treated by the police that way — neither a photographer nor a protester.
Photojournalist Sait Serkan Gurbuz, who was covering the protest for Reuters, was also detained by the Baltimore police around the same time as the incident with Giordano — perhaps even for photographing it, according to the Baltimore Sun. Gurbuz was released but issued a citation for “failure to obey orders.”
“Serkan was on a public sidewalk and the events were happening in plain view. We do not agree with the police’s citation for ‘failure to obey orders,’ as Serkan backed away from the scene when the police demanded that he do so, or with the way in which he was treated by the police,” a spokeswoman for Reuters told the Sun.
A spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, which owns the City Paper, took a somewhat lighter tone in her statement regarding Giordano: “We take seriously the right of the press to fairly and accurately cover events such as the protests that occurred yesterday in Baltimore. We are looking into the incident and are reaching out to the Baltimore Police Department to begin a constructive dialogue to express our concerns about what happened to our photographer.”
Although much national news coverage of the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore has focused on a narrative of “chaos” and “violence,” photographs of this past Saturday’s protest that were published on Bmore Art show a completely different view — one of hundreds of people marching peacefully as they demand justice.
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