Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has contacted his country’s embassy in the U.S. to call for an investigation after police in Washington D.C. were captured on live TV assaulting journalists from Australia’s Channel 7 news network on Tuesday. The Australian journalists were covering the protests in Washington D.C., one of the many demonstrations first sparked when a white police officer killed a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.
Footage from the assault by police, which aired live in Australia, shows reporter Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers being struck with a shield and a baton. The journalists were also shot with rubber bullets and struggled to breathe after getting tear-gassed, according to Channel 7.
“We were at some distance, expecting a crackdown at curfew time… but their surge took everyone by surprise,” Brace told her own TV channel in a new report. “Cameraman Tim Meyers and I are both ok. Pretty bruised, but ok.”
Here’s how this scene was viewed live in Australia. One of America’s closest and most dependable allies. Rendered speechless. Just watch. pic.twitter.com/IjOzgs3WYo
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) June 2, 2020
Prime Minister Morrison and U.S. President Donald Trump talked over the phone yesterday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald but Morrison was reportedly unaware at the time that Australian journalists had been assaulted outside the White House. Morrison and Trump discussed the upcoming G7 meeting that’s currently scheduled for September.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
According to senior government sources, Mr Morrison was not aware of the attack on the Channel 7 crew at the time of the phone call. The Prime Minister later asked the Australian embassy in Washington to investigate and report back on how Australia should register its “strong concerns” with local authorities in Washington.
Trump delivered a speech from the Rose Garden of the White House shortly after 6:30 p.m. local time yesterday as protests continued outside. Police shot tear gas and used overwhelming force to disperse the crowd of peaceful protesters in a move that we now understand was to allow President Trump to cross the street for a photo-op in front of a church.
Trump was reportedly upset about news coverage that he had been hiding in the underground bunker underneath the White House on Friday and wanted to prove that he was a tough guy. Trump awkwardly held up a bible while standing in front of the church.
The New York Times described the bizarre scene:
He walked alongside Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter and senior adviser. Ms. Trump was wearing a mask, one of the few visible reminders on Monday that the administration was in the middle of battling a public health crisis. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, Ms. Hicks and Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, were also among the cadre of aides.
As police sirens blared in the background, Mr. Trump, his lips set in a thin line, stood with his back to the boarded-up, graffiti-laden facade of the buttermilk yellow church.
He cradled a Bible, bouncing it in his hands as if testing its weight.
“Is that your Bible?” a reporter yelled.
“It’s a Bible,” Mr. Trump responded, and hoisted up the book so reporters could see.
The bishop of that church, Mariann E. Budde, told the New York Times that she had no idea Trump was going to pull this stunt.
“He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years,” Budde said. “We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces.”
U.S. police have attacked at least 100 journalists in the past week, according to a tally by the Nieman Journalism Lab. Many of the foreign journalists appear confused about why cops would target reporters, something that typically only happens in strictly authoritarian countries.
Trump told state governors on a conference call Monday that other countries were laughing at the U.S. for not being tough enough on protesters, something that is objectively not true if you bother to watch international TV reports.
“You know when other countries watch this, they’re watching this, the next day wow, they’re really a push over,” Trump said on his unhinged call on Monday. “And we can’t be a push over. And we have all the resources — it’s not like we don’t have the resources. So, I don’t know what you’re doing.”
In reality, countries outside the U.S. are horrified at the images they’re seeing broadcast — the kinds of footage that’s more typically seen in places like Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have been suppressed by Hong Kong’s police force, which is aligned with political leaders in Beijing, China.
The Australian journalists who were assaulted on Monday now report that they’re not allowed to leave their hotel in Washington D.C. to cover the protests. Brace told her news network that reporters are supposed to be exempt from curfews so that they can cover the demonstrations on the ground,“but tonight, it’s unclear to us if that’s changed.”
“The Secret Service outside our hotel is telling us we can’t leave the area,” Brace said.