Chaotic encounters present challenges for police and media


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Pockets of violence playing out in recent days are testing the will of police and residents in the Queen City.

In a moment, things can change, like when a protester is tackled by police in the middle of an interview, or when a news crew is caught in the crossfire of crowd control.

Only seconds after a News 4 interview with a protester started Monday night on Bailey Avenue, the man was rushed by police and tackled to the ground.

“I live in the Town of Tonawanda. I don’t live in the city of Buffalo,” the protester told a News 4 photographer on camera.

State Police spokesman James O’Callaghan says police had been watching the man closely for a reason.

“He was identified much earlier than that interview took place as a protest antagonist. This is someone who actively gets the crowd involved or does certain things that could put other people in danger,” O’Callaghan said.

O’Callaghan says police conducted the takedown as the man’s back was turned away from police, not knowing that he was in the middle of an interview.

“And they took that opportunity, unfortunately, right when you guys were interviewing. But they took that opportunity to make sure that he was taken in custody peacefully,” he added.

State Police say the man was taken into custody and processed by Buffalo Police.

All this happened less than a minute before an SUV drove through a line of police on Bailey Avenue, injuring three law enforcement officers.

And this made an already tense situation extremely stressed.

News 4’s Dave Greber and photographer Brad Berchou were in the thick of the action.

At one point, as they moved to find a safer location, they found themselves under pepper ball fire by police.

You can see a projectile hitting the camera’s lens.

“I would hope, to be honest with you, that they didn’t know who we were. It would be a real shame that if they identified us as media positively, and then pulled the trigger,” Greber said, while recalling the chaotic situation.

“I think they were firing at anything that moved. And we happened to be moving.”

Things can turn ugly in a hurry. That’s something Greber knows from covering protests all week.

But taking projectile fire from police, he says, surprised him.

“Approaching them with hands up, credentials, a light and a camera, you don’t expect to be turned on and fired upon,” he added.

A quick Google search on the subject yields numerous stories of similar encounters across the nation between police and media.

Buffalo police Captain Jeff Rinaldo says it was dark, and difficult for police to tell who’s who in the heat of the moment.

“We try as hard as we can to make sure that members of the media have access to these events. But when situations like this unfold, when we’re trying to disperse large crowds, there is the potential for media members to become part of the situation,” Rinaldo said.

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