Protests and Police Abuse in 2020: Reporting from the Front Lines Panel Discussion


Amid a nationwide outcry over police brutality, protesters and the journalists who cover them have been subjected to overly aggressive policing.

Across the U.S., reporters, photographers and others have been hit with rubber bullets, sprayed with tear gas and faced arrest while covering the marches and demonstrations that have followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, here in Los Angeles, Andres Guardado.

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host four journalists on Thursday, July 2 at 6 p.m. as they describe their experiences during the recent protests, including the obstacles they faced while reporting their stories. The panel will also discuss what comes next as activists demand greater police accountability.

The panelists are:

Samanta Helou Hernandez ||
Freelancer reporter with LAist, CurbedLA, Remezcla
Samanta Helou Hernandez’s work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography in New York City and the Mexican Consulate’s Dual Vision: 35 Artists Under 35.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske ||
Houston bureau chief, Los Angeles Times
Molly Hennessy-Fiske has been a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times since 2006 and previously reported for the Thomson Reuters fellowship in Lebanon in 2006 and a Pew fellowship in Mexico in 2004.

Faith Petrie ||
Freelance reporter with Los Angeles Sentinel/L.A. Watts Times and California State University, Long Beach student
Faith Petrie is a student journalist and freelancer in South Los Angeles.

Lexis-Olivier Ray, ||
Freelancer reporter with LA Taco, Curbed LA, KCET
Lexis-Olivier Ray is a housing, homelessness, cannabis and criminal justice freelance reporter and documentary filmmaker.

The panel will be moderated by KPCC/LAist public safety reporter Frank Stoltze

SPJ/LA condemned attacks against journalists and the general use of excessive force by police earlier this month. The chapter also called on the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to prioritize investigation and prosecution of excessive force abuses locally, including those committed against working journalists.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented over 440 aggressions against the press since protests began in late May.

To receive a Zoom link to the discussion, please RSVP at

WHAT: Protests and police abuse in 2020: Reporting from the front lines panel discussion

WHERE: Online via Zoom RSVP for info

WHEN: Thursday, July 2, 6 p.m.

WHO: Samanta Helou Hernandez, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Faith Petrie, Lexis-Olivier Ray, Frank Stoltze, moderator


CONTACT: Nathan Solis, SPJ/LA Diversity Committee chair
(323) 285-0347

SPJ/LA Condemns Attacks on Journalists, Calls for District Attorney to Investigate and Prosecute

The Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued the following statement today responding to numerous national and local reports of attacks on journalists covering protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and called on L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to investigate and prosecute police use of excessive force:

SPJ/LA shares the widespread sorrow and outrage at the death of George Floyd and strongly supports the commitment of Minneapolis authorities to pursue criminal prosecution of those responsible. As many others have noted, Floyd’s killing is only the latest in a long line of incidents that have seen excessive force and unacceptable police tactics deployed disproportionately against people of color, too often with little or no consequence. This week’s protests and civil disturbances must be viewed in that larger context.

As a professional organization dedicated to advocating for journalists and the practice of journalism, we also note with particular concern the numerous incidents nationally, and locally, that involve targeted attacks by law enforcement personnel on individual journalists who clearly identified themselves as journalists and were simply doing their jobs. These included not just reporters and photographers sent to Minneapolis but a radio correspondent in Long Beach who was shot in the throat and injured by a rubber bullet that may have been fired at him deliberately.

(Photo courtesy The Washington Post)

SPJ/LA is alarmed by the general use of excessive force by police and specifically about the use of any force against journalists seeking to cover the events. Because these incidents are not confined to simply one police agency, we urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey to prioritize investigation and prosecution of excessive force abuses locally, including those committed against working journalists.

SPJ/LA is also concerned that such conduct reflects not simply a lack of training and discipline by law enforcement agencies, but the longstanding contempt and hostility from the president and other public officials toward a free and independent press.

As others have noted, the press is the only profession that is specifically singled out for constitutional protection in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Those in law enforcement who endanger and harm journalists must be held accountable.

CONTACT: Joel Bellman, Advocacy Committee Chair, 
(424) 324-1815

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SPJ/LA Donates $10,000 to the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation for Emergency Relief for Journalists

The Society of Professional Journalists Greater Los Angeles chapter will donate $10,000 to the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation to provide emergency relief to journalists facing economic pressures during the coronavirus pandemic.

The spread of coronavirus and accompanying stay-at-home orders have sparked a huge drop in advertising, sponsorship and event revenue for news organizations across the nation. With local newsrooms experiencing layoffs and furloughs, SPJ/LA reached out to the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation, a nonprofit group with a long history of helping Southern California journalists who are facing financial difficulty.

“We are deeply saddened by these cuts and our hearts go out to the journalists who find themselves in financial need during these difficult times,” said SPJ/LA spokeswoman Sarah Favot. “We are proud to support the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation as it provides them much needed help.”

Established in 1954, the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation offers grants to journalists to help pay for food, housing, medical care and other essential expenses.

“This generous donation from SPJ/LA comes at a time when Southern California journalists are more in need of emergency financial help than ever,” said Tony Valdez, chairman of the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation. “Every dollar donated to the foundation is a dollar we can give to a journalist to keep food on their table, a roof over their head and the medical care they need to put their lives and their careers back together.”

SPJ/LA is an all-volunteer organization that has worked since 1934 to support journalists and protect free speech and freedom of the press. The group encourages Southern California journalists who are facing financial distress to apply for help from the foundation here.

Those who wish to provide additional support to the foundation may make tax-deductible contributions here or by sending a check to the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation, PO Box 10186, Burbank, CA 91510-0186.

For information on SPJ/LA, contact Sarah Favot at For information on the 8-Ball Welfare Foundation, contact Tony Valdez at

SPJ/LA Scholarship Application Deadline Extended to June 1, 2020

Due to the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is extending the application deadline for this year’s scholarships.

SPJ/LA is offering six scholarship opportunities to journalism students, including the newly created Lisa A. Davidson Memorial Scholarship. Information on the scholarships can be found here.

The new deadline for scholarship applications is June 1. This year’s scholarships are worth a combined $9,500.

Applicants must fill out the forms in their entirety, and meet all of the entry requirements, or their submissions will not be accepted or reviewed. The application can be found here.

Send inquiries and applications to Richard Saxton, Scholarship Committee Chair, at

SPJ/LA: Newspaper closures will hurt communities

The Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Los Angeles chapter, is deeply saddened over the closure of three community newspapers in Los Angeles County: the Glendale News-Press, the Burbank Leader and the La Cañada Valley Sun.

The decision by the California Times, the Los Angeles Times’ parent company, to shutter these publications will harm communities, depriving readers of vital sources of news and information. The closures will also hurt a team of dedicated, hard-working journalists who deserve better amid a national health crisis.

Our hearts go out to those journalists who have lost jobs in these economically challenging times.