US addresses Sunrise on-air attack

 

The United States Ambassador to Australia has addressed the country in a statement less than a day after American police were caught knocking down a Channel 7 reporter and her crew at the centre of a protest in Washington DC.

Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., who is also a lawyer posted a statement on Twitter Tuesday evening that gave few details about the requested investigation into the incident but said "we take mistreatment of journalists seriously".

"Freedom of the press is a right Australians and Americans hold dear," he said.

"We take mistreatment of journalists seriously, as do all who take democracy seriously."

"We remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting journalists and guaranteeing equal justice for all".

 

It came after footage of Sunrise reporter Amelia Brace and her cameraman being shoved and hit by police went viral in Australia and around the world.

Ms Brace was providing an update from the White House on the escalating chaos with her freelance cameraman, Timothy Myers ACS, ahead of President Donald Trump's speech on Tuesday morning when heavily-armed police began aggressively pushing the crowd back.

Ms Brace and Myers tried to take cover behind a wall amid the stampede as they continued the cross, but were spotted by heavily-armed officers, who quickly shoved them both back and punched the cameraman.

The whole scene unfolded on live TV:

 

Ambassador Culvahouse serves as the President's personal representative to the government and people of Australia.

He was personally nominated by President Trump on 6 November 2018.

It's the latest in a spate of incidents involving media crews including arrests and violence despite them being clearly identified as journalists.

Ms Brace was struck by a police baton and cameraman Myers was hit by a riot shield.

"We were at some distance, expecting a crackdown at curfew time but their surge took everyone by surprise.

"Cameraman Tim Meyers and I are both okay. Pretty bruised, but okay," she added.

The attack forced Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take action, demanding an investigation into the assault from the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC.

"It all happened so quickly," Ms Brace told the 7 network today.

PM DEMANDS INVESTIGATION

Seven's director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson confirmed Prime Minister Morrison had contacted the Australian embassy in the US capital demanding an investigation.

"The attack on our reporter and cameraman in Washington is nothing short of wanton thuggery," Mr McPherson said in a statement issued from Seven on Tuesday afternoon.

"They weren't in anyone's way just simply doing their job.

"To be belted with an armoured shield and then our reporter cop a truncheon in the back is abhorrent.

"The Prime Minister has informed us he's been in touch with our embassy in Washington to have the matter urgently investigated. We are making our own complaints through the appropriate channels."

In most cases media are allowed to cover the US protests even if curfews are in place. But Ms Brace said it appeared that was no longer the case and media were being barred from reporting on events overnight.

"The secret service outside our hotel is telling us we can't leave the area."

Earlier Tuesday Channel 7 labelled the incident by police in the US capital as "wanton thuggery".

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said that "our ambassador should be making representation on behalf of these Australians, who effectively have been assaulted for doing their job."

"In a democratic society, the role of the media is critical, and it's important the media are able to report on events, including crises such as we're seeing in the United States, free from harassment," he said.

"The violence we're seeing towards the media, with tear gas being fired, with media being assaulted, is completely unacceptable."

 

A short time after the incident occurred, Sunrise hosts David Koch and Samantha Armytage checked in on the pair, who were also recovering from a dose of tear gas and rubber bullets deployed by police into the crowd.

"We're not too bad, it's actually the tear gas that gets you," Brace admitted.

"As I tried to continue speaking to you (during the earlier live cross), I could barely breathe and it's really hard to continue speaking during that.

"I also got a rubber bullet to the backside, and Tim got one at the back of the neck - so we'll have a few bruises tomorrow."

Brace also expressed her gratitude to her colleague, who got "smashed" as he shielded her from police.

"I'm very grateful for him, he's a very experienced cameraman and has worked in war zones, so I felt very comfortable with him leading me out there, and he did a wonderful job."

The reporter added that they'd been left trapped with "no escape" as the crowds were suddenly pushed back ahead of Mr. Trump's arrival.

"There's really just no escape at that point. We had the National Guard behind us, and the police coming though, and there was nowhere for us to go," Brace explained.

"We had no choice but to hide in a corner hoping that they (police) passed by, but as you can see from those pictures … They did not."

Despite the shocking footage, Myers insisted he was "fine".

"While this wasn't meant to be a story - the police did have a job to do. They chose a heavy-handed tactic to get it done. The way the crowd was goading them prior to the incident, I am not surprised at their approach," he told news.com.au.

"Though I am disgusted at the officer who swung his baton at the back of my colleague's head after she had clearly identified herself as a journalist and while she was retreating."

Confronting scenes played out prior to the incident, showing heavily-armed cops forcing the crowd back.
Confronting scenes played out prior to the incident, showing heavily-armed cops forcing the crowd back.

Brace and Myers' Seven colleague Ashlee Mullaney - reporting from Minneapolis where the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd by an officer sparked the chaos a week ago - delivered a sombre summary of the situation a short time later.

"I have to just reference back to what Amelia has gone through," she told Koch and Armytage during her update on Seven's breakfast program.

"We are working media, lawfully doing a job, and how we have reached a point where that (situation with Brace and Myers) has happened is unbelievable - America is really in the thick of a crisis right now."

Seven's political editor Mark Riley also weighed in on the disturbing footage with a scathing tweet reiterating that Brace and Myers had simply been "doing their job".

 

Originally published as US addresses Sunrise on-air attack



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