Opinion: Photographers beware of violent antifa protesters

While I understand people not wanting to be photographed, if you go to a rally at a free-speech park where there are photographers, there should be no expectation of privacy.

By Thomas Hawk

Thomas Hawk is a photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. This piece was first published on PetaPixel.

Photos: Thomas Hawk

This past Sunday, I photographed the “Rally against Hate” protests in Berkeley, which was organized to oppose a “Say No To Marxism” rally that had been planned. There was very little representation of the so-called alt-right at the park on Sunday. However, there were 100 to 200 antifa (or anarchists, or whatever they are called) who showed up dressed in all black to the protest.

The vast majority of the people protesting were anti-hate, peaceful protesters. But this group of black-clad masked protesters assaulted several photographers at the event. I personally witnessed photographers having their cameras stolen and smashed and damaged.

A protester smashing a photographer’s camera onto the ground. Photo: Thomas Hawk
Protesters smashing and stomping on a photographer’s camera. Photo: Thomas Hawk

I also personally witnessed photographers being physically assaulted.

At one point, while a photographer was being assaulted the Berkeley Police Department had to rush into the black bloc crowd to fish a guy out who was being beaten on. That is the guy whose face is bloodied and the photo I took where the police are escorting him.

Photo: Thomas Hawk
Photo: Thomas Hawk
Photo: Thomas Hawk
Photo: Thomas Hawk

Another photographer who was there had black paint thrown on him while he was photographing.

Frank Somerville from KTVU also has a post up on Facebook which got a lot of attention about his experience feeling threatened while taking photos of these people.

It seemed pretty evident to me that these people did not want to be photographed at this event. While I can understand people not wanting to be photographed, generally speaking, I think if you show up at a rally in the middle of a free speech park where there are media and hundreds of cameras, there really should be no expectation of privacy.

To react violently towards photographers, destroy people’s property, and assault people physically is wrong. To me, these people seemed like a mob of bullies who delighted in violence and just wanted to crack skulls. I think these people overreacted to the photographers at the event and think more people need to come out and condemn this sort of violent behavior.

Nevertheless, photographers should be warned: when photographing protests to be aware of the propensity for violence towards photographers by members of this group.

It is sad that in a progressive place like Berkeley, no less, that photographers should have to encounter such hatefulness and violence at an anti-hate rally.