Ali Velshi reminded everyone of the importance of a free press in an age of unprecedented attacks by the Trump administration and now the police that he personally experienced covering the protests over the murder of George Floyd.
Velshi and a number of his colleagues were tear gassed and fired on with rubber bullets while trying to cover the protests across the country, and as he described, the police were more than aware of the fact that it was journalists they were firing on a good deal of the time.
Donald Trump has spent the last four years attacking the press for doing its job—a practice that although some warned could have dire consequences, few believed would actually manifest into physical distaste for the press, but that is exactly what happened.
On Tuesday night, as I stood on the perimeter side of a police line, one block west of New York City's Union Square, I asked an officer why the line was established where it was, when there was no evident risk to anyone's safety. His response his response was if I continue to press the issue, I might be arrested—arrested for asking the question.
In Minneapolis I was hit by tear gas a few times and then by a rubber bullet. I was in a crowd upon which police were firing, so it's likely the police had no idea my team was made up of journalists. But as my crew and I pulled back, we approached an intersection upon which police, supported by the Minnesota National Guard had converged.
Having been fired upon minutes earlier, and without any protesters around us, we approached the authorities slowly with our hands in the air announcing “We're media.” They heard us and then they responded with, “We don't care,” and opened fire again.
Since May 26th, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 300 journalists have faced press freedom violations, including several of my MSNBC colleagues who were either targeted by or incidentally hit by police projectiles.
Nearly all of us except those seriously injured went back into the field, because we exist to bear witness and to hold power to account. Because it is our duty to tell the public of this country what authorities are doing ostensibly in their name.
Again there was no threat, no violence from journalists unless you consider coverage by the media a threat.
In this heated moment we must continue to remember that there are some police who entered this profession to honorably serve and protect, but what police departments and police unions don't seem to ever want is scrutiny. They don't like it from their chiefs. They don't like it from civilian review boards, they don't like it from their mayors, and they certainly don't like it from the media, but scrutiny is what we do, and without scrutiny the ability of the media to bear witness and accountability dies.