Adam Gray, who works as a photographer in New York for the UK news agency SWNS, had been taking photographs of rallies in Manhattan on Saturday when the police arrived and rushed into the crowd. While photographing what he describes as a "pandemonium" between police and protesters, one officer threw Gray to the ground using his truncheon.
After three or four officers climbed on top of him to restrain him, they forced him into handcuffs. Gray was arrested, put into a police vehicle with approximately 20 protestors and charged with unlawful assembly, and spent a night in police custody.
While in prison, officers allegedly removed facemasks from protestors to take their photographs but refused to give them back, with only a quarter of the people in Gray’s cell being able to wear masks. Gray estimates that there were between 50 and 70 people in the holding cell "with zero social distancing". He described how "irresponsible and dangerous" this was, saying: "it was shocking to see how blasé the police were about the risk of coronavirus and public health."
This all occurred despite Gray having repeatedly stated he was press and wearing his press pass, which had been issued to him by the US State Department, but the officers "just didn’t seem to care".
Discussing the incident, Gray said: “I’ve worked in many other countries doing work like this and never has it gone as far as this. I couldn’t believe it.”
SWNS editor-in-chief Andrew Young described the arrest as "an affront to press freedom [that] goes against every principle held dear by all journalists and those it aims to inform."
“Adam Gray has been on the front line daily covering the pandemic that has crippled New York and the nation as a whole.
“To be arrested for simply doing his job, at considerable risk to himself, while chronicling the violence that ensued following the tragic death of George Floyd is frankly outrageous.”
SWNS picture editor Jon Mills furthered this, saying: "It is deeply concerning that the NYPD appear to be trying to shut down honest and objective reporting.
“Bringing charges against a working photojournalist just for doing his job is an utter outrage and we will fight this every step of the way.”
The offence Gray was charged with, unlawful assembly, is defined as a person "assembl[ing] with four or more other persons for the purpose of engaging or preparing to engage with them in tumultuous and violent conduct likely to cause public alarm, or when, being present at an assembly which either has or develops such purpose, he remains there with intent to advance that purpose”.
Featured image: Adam Gray for SWNS