The crowd, including some calling the photographer “antifa,” stopped only when a man wearing a red Trump hat pushed them back, retrieving his camera and telling them Minchillo was press.
Filmed and posted on social media by AP photographer Julio Cortez, the attack was among several instances of violence against journalists covering the deadly takeover of the Capitol.
Throughout the Wednesday assault, there were signs of rage directed at journalists.
“MURDER THE MEDIA,” someone carved into a door. Protesters screamed “Get out of here!” while advancing on journalists who then abandoned their camera equipment. The crowd moved in and smashed it, according to footage published online by a Bloomberg News reporter.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker said it was monitoring at least nine reports of assaults, five reports of arrests or detainments and multiple reports of equipment damage, threats and harassment in connection with the disturbances.
The incidents were condemned by industry groups including the National Press Photographers Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to investigate the incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable, with program director Carlos Martinez de la Serna saying that the violence “has no place in a democracy.”
“For the past four years, the Trump administration has lobbed attacks against individual and institutional news media,” he said in a statement. “As the world has now witnessed, this rhetoric is not just a political diversion — it can embolden mobs to attack reporters who are simply trying to do their job of keeping the public informed.”
Minchillo said in a Twitter post that he was “banged up” but “kept at it the rest of the day.” Patrick Maks, a spokesman for the Associated Press, said the agency was “thankful he is okay,” calling it “a reminder of the dangers journalists both in the U.S. and around the world face every day while simply trying to do their jobs.”
Journalists working Wednesday’s events reported feeling shaken by displays of hostility. Sharing a photo of destroyed camera equipment laying outside the Capitol, Richard Hall, a reporter for the British newspaper the Independent, tweeted: “This is why I stopped doing interviews after a certain point. Today was the first day I’ve felt uncomfortable identifying myself as a journalist in America.”
Others said they stopped identifying themselves. MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian said on air that she and other colleagues intentionally avoided clothing with the station’s branding, expecting hostility because “the president is continuously talking about the fake news media,” according to the New York Times.
Erin Schaff, a photographer for the Times, said the sight of her press badge angered three men, who pushed her to the ground and tried to snatch her cameras.
“I started screaming for help as loudly as I could,” she wrote in an account published by the newspaper. “No one came. People just watched. At this point, I thought I could be killed and no one would stop them. They ripped one of my cameras away from me, broke a lens on the other and ran away.”
The rioters were not the only threat to journalists on Wednesday. Schaff said that after hiding from those storming the Capitol, she was found by police who drew their guns and told her to get on the ground. Her press pass stolen, they did not believe she was with the media, she wrote, until other photojournalists identified her as one.
Two Washington Post journalists, Zoeann Murphy and Whitney Leaming, were briefly detained by police before being released.
“I have heard from so many journalist friends/colleagues who were at or around the Capitol today that they are ‘fine’. This is a lie,” Leaming wrote on Twitter.
“They are not fine but they push aside their physical safety and mental health to focus on the story at hand bc one of the most important rules of journalism is that the story is not about you. Just please remember that and maybe not threaten their life, I beg you.”
In Minchillo’s case, the attack appeared to start when he was labeled an “anti protester,” Cortez wrote in an Instagram post, “even though he kept flashing his press credentials.” Some in the crowd could be heard yelling about “the media” or “antifa.”
“This is an unedited, real life situation of a member of the press keeping his cool even though he was being attacked,” Cortez wrote. “A true professional and a great teammate, I’m glad we were able to get away.”
Minchillo asked in his Twitter posts for people not to “linger on the outrage too long,” calling for them to recognize the “importance of journalism as a conduit between us.” He said he was frustrated that he wasn’t able to be “in the front with my colleagues.”
But, he added, “I’m grateful I was able to get up and after it again. That’s the hustle. I’m going to shut up and go back to work.”