'Shocking moment': Australian minister seeks probe of US police hitting reporter covering White House protest

Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The outrage over Monday's chaotic move to clear peaceful protesters from a park in front of the White House is not limited to religious leaders and lawmakers. 

Australian officials expressed alarm after a U.S. law enforcement officer hit an Australian reporter who was covering the protests outside the White House and got caught up on the scramble to flee. 

In the incident – carried live on Australian television – a federal law enforcement official can be seen slamming a shield into the cameraman and then punching the journalist with his fist. The cameraman, Tim Myers, appears stunned by the attack, as does the reporter with him, Amelia Brace, who both work for the Australia's Channel Seven news.

"Quite violent," Brace says as she tries to regain her composure during the broadcast. 

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she had directed her country's ambassador to the U.S. to investigate the incident and figure out how to register Australia's "strong concerns" with American officials in Washington.

"It's a very serious matter," Payne told an Australian radio outlet Tuesday. Foreign Policy magazine first reported her push for an investigation.  

On Wednesday, United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan announced two officers involved were assigned administrative duties.

"As is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two U.S. Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian Press," Monahan said in a statement.

Australia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Arthur Sinodinos, said he had reached out to the U.S. State Department for help with the matter.

"I understand that Channel 7 will make a formal police complaint asking to have the matter investigated," Sinodinos said in a statement Tuesday. "We are in discussion with the State Department, and they have offered assistance to identify where the complaint should be targeted."

"... Australia is always supportive of people’s right to peaceful protest and we encourage all involved to exercise restraint and to avoid violence," the ambassador added.

President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after he visited St. John's Church across from the White House on June 1. Part of the church was set on fire during protests the night before.

The incident happened on Monday evening as federal officials moved to clear a park across from the White House, so that President Donald Trump could walk to a church across the street, where he posed for pictures with a Bible. 

Law enforcement officials used chemical irritants, flash bangs and other methods to force peaceful protesters out of the park, in a move that has sparked widespread outrage. 

"We’ve just had to run about a block as police moved in," Brace says just before her cameraman is hit. The video goes wobbly as he drops the video camera. 

"Woah," said one of the anchors. "Amelia, are you okay – or your camera man?"

Brace then notes that she identified herself as a reporter but said the police are not distinguishing between protesters and journalists.  

"Watch the shocking moment #7NEWS reporter @AmeliaBrace and our cameraman were knocked over by a police officer LIVE on air after chaos erupted in Washington DC," the Australian network posted on Twitter. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Australia seeks probe of US police assault on reporter covering protest