Aaron Mak, an intern covering violence that erupted after a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed an African American resident over the weekend, was attacked while reporting the story. But when attackers saw that Mak was Asian American, they relented, Richard Prince reported for Journalisms.
“The crowd got ugly last night,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor George Stanley told Prince via email. “Someone noticed our intern photographer, Calvin Mattheis, said something about his race (he is white) and encouraged the crowd to go after him. Several men ran toward Calvin, who raced away, dropping his camera. Aaron ran after Calvin, picking up his camera, and the chasers caught Aaron, tackled him and began to punch and kick him. Aaron rolled into a ball to protect himself. When the mob realized Aaron was Asian, they relented.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in decades, if ever,” Stanley added. “The police were busy defending themselves, the firefighters and trying to maintain control. They couldn’t see all that was happening or protect journalists doing their jobs at the scene.”
Mak was working Saturday, the last night of his internship, the editor added.
Violence erupted after a still unidentified officer killed 23-year-old Sylville Smith, who police said was carrying a semiautomatic handgun when confronted by a black police officer.
The officer is staying out of town for security reasons, officials said, while journalists covering the aftermath are being instructed to put safety first.
Mak, a Yale University student, was part of a team of reporters covering the violence. He shared some of what he saw on social media, as well as in an article published on the Journal Sentinel’s website.
I was attacked by a group of people and hid from gunshots while reporting this: t.co/3iQe0C1CWg
— Aaron Mak (@aarontmak) August 14, 2016
The Journal Sentinel continues to cover the story with “experienced reporters and photographers,” Stanley wrote. Meanwhile, WTMJ-TV reported Sunday that it was “initially forced to pull crews from the area due to safety reasons and threats of physical violence from some members of the crowd.”