I want to share my experience as a ZUMA photographer Wednesday for the record.
There’s a Mexican expression, “walking barefoot along the path of pain,” and that was the experience I and some other colleagues had as we tried to cover the news.
I caught up with the column of rioters as they reached the foot of Congress, where the mob bulldozed its way barrier after barrier. When we reached the Inauguration setup, I had already fallen once at the first barrier where some five or six people ran over me and a female cop who had also collapsed. A woman picked me up. This is five minutes before 1:00 p.m. At the Inauguration set up, another clash started at the mezzanine level, where a protester sprayed a cop with what seemed to be tear gas, then sprayed me, at which point I walked to the lawn to wash my eyes and vomit, and then returned to the deck where the clashes continued as hundreds of people kept on coming. A group of protesters tore off the tarp covering the scaffolding, and a column started to climb the stairs under the maze of metal pipes, and right on the top was a room without roof, underneath the structure. There the protesters created a column of 10 people in a row, and as the outer lanes kept pushing and protected the rest as one structure, one middle row carried an endless supply of “bodies” as they yelled for grannies and regular joes to line up. Another row was to carry the injured down the stairs – for about 12 minutes – as the guys on the front line kept fighting the cops, body to body, hitting them with those metal-reinforced gloves. Some other cops used the scaffolding and shot endlessly from as close to 10 to 12 feet away. They flashed-banged the group I was with at least twice. I saw a man lose his teeth and a woman frozen like a piece of wood. The photographer Ron Haviv and maybe another two photographers passed me. I tried to retreat but things looked worse on the lower deck. At this point I could not really hear or see well anymore. A window was broken and I followed as the mob started to run toward it. I stopped when I saw a protester doing a “swear-in” pose at the Inaugural podium and ran toward him. He ran away but I saw a female officer, alone, crying, who then tried to hit me a few times with a baton, mistaking me for a rioter. She then pulled her gun on me until she heard me screaming “Press!” As she let me go a protester grabbed me and pulled off my press badge. I thought he was about to hit me in the face with those leather and metal shell gloves, but he let me go. As the world now knows from the ITT video, the mob was climbing into Congress through the broken window, and I followed, as the footage shows. At this point my wide angle lens had been struck by something (it is manual) and it became hard to spin the focus rim, but I got inside and kept shooting, washing my eyes with San Pellegrino Aranciata, semi-blind, not even able to chimp. At some point I asked a teenager to tell me the numbers on my camera so I could keep shooting, including the moment the mob planted the flag and prayed in a circle of triumph at the Rotunda of the Congress of the United States of America.
ITT was got inside behind me and the footage that has been replayed on a CNN loop includes the shot of me climbing through the broken window. I would like to clarify that I am not a rioter, I am a photographer with ZUMA, doing my best to document the news, wearing a KN95 mask, shooting almost blind, using manual settings and manual focus, surrounded by hundreds of protesters with iPhones documenting their own stories.
Scott Mc Kiernan, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, ZUMA Press