Protesters at UW encampment harass, shine laser in eye of photojournalist

May 17, 2024, 5:32 PM

Photo: Pro-Palestinian protesters have set up an encampment at the UW campus....

Pro-Palestinian protesters have set up an encampment at the UW campus. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

A news photographer for Seattle’s FOX 13 was harassed and had a laser shined in his eye while filming near the pro-Palestinian encampment Wednesday at the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, more commonly known as the Quad, at the University of Washington (UW).

Mike Harvey posted his own footage of the incident to his X account, where two masked people are seen approaching him with their umbrellas deployed to block his camera’s lens. Harvey is heard warning them not to damage his camera, and the group continues to block the lens.

The group then talked to him about a TV show, and Harvey is heard going back and forth until they ask for whom he works. Harvey told them “FOX 13,” and when he stops responding, the two protesters with umbrellas walk away, with one saying, “We’ve done our work here. We’ve done our job.”

Less than a minute later, the two return with others, one of whom is seen shining a green laser at him. Harvey is heard claiming the laser was shone in his eyes.

“That’s assault, right there,” Harvey said, while one of the protesters mocked him and the group walked closer. It is assault to hit someone in the eye with a laser.

More from Sam Campbell: UW’s ‘W’ sign besmirched with red paint by pro-Palestinian protesters

The group again blocked Harvey’s lens with umbrellas, at times growling. One of the protesters questioned his station affiliation before challenging his filming, saying the recording of protesters’ faces exposes them to the possibility of a third party “doxing” protesters.

Mike Harvey doesn’t back down

Harvey maintained his right to record in a public space, calling it “a newsworthy event.”

“You understand you’re going to a public event, a public protest – an ongoing public protest, that you want to get your message out but then you don’t want anyone to record that. You understand how kind of absurd that is,” Harvey is heard telling the protester.

“We’re not stopping anyone from recording. We’re just asking you don’t get peoples’ faces,” the protester said, while another kept the umbrella fanned across the lens’ field of view.

The protester asked Harvey if he had talked with their “media team,” to which he replied he was not conducting interviews, but only needed footage of the scene.

The ordeal continued for several more minutes, with Harvey picking up his camera to move it repeatedly, and protesters following, repeating nonsensical phrases and ultimately walking back to a tent. One of the protesters is then seen again shining a green laser at Harvey before the recording ends.

FOX 13 told KIRO Newsradio Harvey is not injured. We have reached out to Harvey for comment.

Other incidents at the UW encampment involving journalists

It’s the latest in a series of reported incidents of harassment of journalists covering the ongoing protests at the university.

KIRO Newsradio reporter James Lynch previously covered the encampment at the university, and said upon his arrival at the Quad, he was also harassed by protesters. Lynch said he was surrounded by people with umbrellas extended toward him, telling him he would need to “check in” at the “media tent.”

On May 8, KOMO News reported protesters spray-painted over a news crew camera’s lens while the journalists attempted to cover the ongoing demonstrations.

KIRO Newsradio previously reached out to the UW to ask for a response to the continued targeting of press on its campus. After asking for details from Lynch, a spokesperson replied over email on May 9, writing, “My understanding is that they had asked media to check in if they are wanting to speak with someone on the record. To be clear, I am not saying we condone this action on their part, and we are gathering additional information.”

That email came six days before the incident with Harvey.

In Plain Sight: Criticisms, questions raised about controversial nonprofit We Heart Seattle

Group agrees to disband UW encampment

Protesters who had set up the UW encampment said Friday they’re packing up and going home.

The United Front for Palestinian Liberation, leaders of the encampment known as the Popular University for Gaza liberated zone, announced they have reached an agreement with the administration and will disband by 3 p.m. Monday.

UW President Anna Mari Cauce issued a statement through the UW Presidential Blog Friday confirming the administration and the people running the encampment came to an agreement on a resolution.

“I’m pleased to reach this resolution so that our campus can begin to heal – including by coming together for Commencement next month – and so that once again all UW community members, regardless of religion, race or national origin, can live, learn and work without fear,” Cauce said to conclude her statement.

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest; Charlie Harger, KIRO Newsradio

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X or email him here.

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