'I never expected it to happen in the US': British photojournalist arrested in NYC covering George Floyd protests

Adam Gray
Adam Gray, a British photographer who has worked with The Telegraph, says he was pushed and pinned to the ground by police while covering a protest in New York - Adam Gray

It was about 10.30pm on Saturday night and I was walking towards Union Square in Manhattan, where protesters had set fire to a police car 15 mins earlier. I’d been editing and sending photos from the demonstrations a few hundred yards away, and wanted to see what was happening.

The police had seemed very agitated throughout the day, clashing with demonstrators and using force. But there seemed to be a lull as I approached the front of the crowd.

Then out of nowhere the cops suddenly rushed the protesters and pandemonium ensued as they grabbed and pushed people to the ground. 

One large officer came at me and slammed me to the floor with his truncheon to my chest. I was smacked down with my three cameras, and three or four cops restrained me and put me in handcuffs.  

A protester gestures at an NYPD officer during a "Black Lives Matter" demonstration on May 28, 2020 in New York City, - AFP

I was shouting “I’m press, I’m press” the whole time and had my lanyard with my foreign press card in it. Not that that seem to matter to them.

They said that they’d made several orders for people to leave the area, which I hadn’t heard. A lieutenant said something like “that as well” as they filled out their arrest slip. I assume now he meant not to just give me a citation like the protesters were getting, but to make it a criminal charge.

An NYPD police car is set on fire as protesters clash with police during a march against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd - Reuters

I was then put onto a paddy wagon with about 20 others, where I was held for about 30 minutes as it filled up. We were driven to 1 Police Plaza, where we all sat in a queue outside for about two hours before going into line to be processed, which took another hour or so. 

I was explaining I am accredited press at every opportunity. I was then searched, processed, my photo taken and put into a large holding cell of 50-70 people. There was zero social distancing. 

Police had removed masks from some protesters to take their photo and apparently refused to give them back. They did not offer new ones. I was then held here until about 9.15am on Monday morning until I was processed and released. I was surprised to be given a ticket for a court date on September 10.

I never expected this to happen in the United States, especially with the supposed importance of the first amendment. I was pretty shocked during the whole thing.

I appreciate that we may end up in the line of fire, get ourselves knocked over or hit in the confusion or maybe even put into handcuffs. But to go through with a full arrest despite continually saying  I am press with credentials hanging around my neck is shocking.

To then go through with taking me to the precinct and to charge me - with unlawful assembly - is unreal.

Adam Gray is a British photographer working with SWNS who has previously been on assignments with The Telegraph