An Anchorage Daily News journalist was assaulted Friday while doing his job.
It happened in Anchorage. We don’t know who the assailant was and we’re not fully sure why it happened. We know an ADN photographer was attacked, and his phone stolen, while he was reporting a story. Police are investigating. Here’s what happened:
Anchorage is in the middle of a municipal election, with mail-in voting underway the past couple weeks. Tuesday is election day, the final day to vote. Campaigning is reaching a peak.
Over the past few days, we’ve been reporting a story on a string of incidents involving campaign signs around town being vandalized or stolen. This has long been something that happens in local elections. Candidates and others involved in the campaigns say they’ve seen an increase this year. Candidates running against right-leaning opponents appear to have been targeted especially this year, according to those campaigns. Candidates from all perspectives have denounced the vandalism. Multiple police reports have been filed. As of Saturday, no one has been charged.
One place where there have been incidents of vandalism is at Minnesota Drive and 100th Avenue in South Anchorage. A sign there for School Board candidate Andy Holleman was defaced earlier in the week. The reporter working on the story, in talking with a range of candidates and campaigns, spoke with someone with the Ship Creek Group, a consulting firm that’s working on several campaigns, including Holleman’s. Other signs at that location had been damaged.
[Related: Candidates report aggressive sign vandalism in Anchorage city election]
Arrangements were made for an ADN photographer, Loren Holmes, to meet someone from Ship Creek at the location to photograph the damage as part of the reporting. It was routine reporting — going out to a location to check out what happened. Here’s Holmes’ account of what occurred:
Holmes showed up on Friday afternoon. There wasn’t an easy place to park next to the signs so he parked down the block. He saw a man who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s walking along 100th Avenue toward the signs. Once there, the man seemed to be tending to them, moving sandbags and collecting them in a pile. Holmes approached him, introduced himself as a Daily News journalist and asked if the man was from Ship Creek Group. The man said yes; this turned out to not be the case.
The man — who was wearing gray clothing, a hat and reflective sunglasses, with a black cloth mask decorated with a small American flag covering the lower part of his face — told Holmes that he was in the process of replacing the signs. And he said he didn’t want his picture taken. Holmes pointed out they were standing in a public place and asked the man his name. He wouldn’t say. Holmes expressed confusion, given that arrangements had been made to meet a specific person from Ship Creek Group.
The man said, “If you take my picture, I will take your camera.” Holmes told him that if he took his camera, it would be theft. The man approached Holmes. Holmes backed up and pulled out his phone to document what was turning into an increasingly hostile interaction. Holmes tripped and fell on his back. The man jumped on top of him, holding him to the ground, and grabbed at his phone. The man wouldn’t let Holmes up and he tried to pry the phone from Holmes.
The man eventually forced the phone out of Holmes’ hand and stepped back. Holmes called 911 on his smartwatch and told the dispatcher he’d been the victim of an assault and theft. Hearing the call, the man threw Holmes’ phone some distance into the snow and took off running. Holmes made a photo with a camera as the man ran away. Holmes pinged the phone with his watch and found the phone in the snow.
This all happened in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon, in clear view of a busy street and a freeway off-ramp
A police officer arrived, talked with Holmes and investigated the scene. The person who Holmes was supposed to meet from Ship Creek Group arrived a few minutes later and also talked with the officer. The man who attacked Holmes and stole his phone was not connected with the group, according to Ship Creek.
Holmes had an abrasion on one hand, probably from when he fell, but otherwise wasn’t injured.
Who was the person who attacked Holmes, then stole his phone? We don’t know. Why did he do it? We don’t know. Was the person who stole the phone connected with the vandalism involving the signs? We don’t know. Why was he so adamant about not having his photo made? We don’t know.
Violence against journalists has become increasingly common nationally and globally. It’s not uncommon for journalists in Anchorage to be threatened, harassed and insulted while doing their work. And on Friday, a journalist was attacked here, apparently for simply doing his job.