Seven Network correspondent Amelia Brace has described to a US congressional committee how police shot her with non-lethal rounds and struck her with a truncheon outside the White House in an attack described as “unlawful”.
Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were in Washington DC’s Lafayette Square on June 1 covering a Black Lives Matter protest when Park Police began aggressively clearing the area ahead of a surprise appearance by US President Donald Trump.
Brace told Democrat and Republican members of the House Committee on Natural Resources the US was Australia’s closest ally and it was crucial to democracy journalists were allowed to cover civil unrest freely and safely.
“A park police officer who was passing us stopped, turned towards Tim and rammed him in the chest and stomach with the edge of his riot shield, causing Tim to keel over and drop down,” Brace told the committee on Monday.
“The officer then took a step back, paused, then punched his hand directly into the front of Tim’s camera, grabbing the lens.
“As this happened, Tim and I were repeatedly shouting the word ‘media’.
“A second officer appeared to intervene, giving us the opportunity to move.
“As I was running away a third officer pushed through the group, going out of his way to strike me with a truncheon.”
Brace told the committee she was shot in the legs and backside and Myers was hit in the neck by non-lethal rounds from a police automatic weapon.
A “chemical irritant” also filled the air.
Two US Park Police officers were placed on administrative leave while an investigation into the treatment of Brace and Myers was completed.
“When you were attacked by this police officer, were you resisting?” Democrat congressman Ruben Gallego asked Brace.
“No,” she replied.
“Was your cameraman resisting?” Gallego asked.
“No,” Brace replied.
Trump, accompanied by a delegation including Attorney-General William Barr, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, appeared in Lafayette Square soon after it was cleared.
The president held a bible and posed in front of St John’s Episcopal Church for photos.
Brace testified for 2.5 hours alongside George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde and civil rights demonstrator Kishon McDonald.
“I think that attack was unlawful,” Turley told the hearing.
“From the video it seems clear to me that any officer could have seen that the Australian journalists were in fact journalists.
“They identified themselves correctly as journalists.”
Raul Grijalva, chair of the congressional committee, criticised the absence of Acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan at the hearing.
Grijalva said the committee was told Chief Monahan “was too busy and there could be a conflict because of potential litigation down the road”.
AAP asked Park Police for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply.