RADFORD, VA (February 29, 2016) – Photojournalist Christopher Morris, on assignment for TIME magazine covering a Donald Trump rally today in Radford University in Virginia, was involved in an incident with a U.S. Secret Service agent as he tried to photograph Black Lives Matter protesters who were being thrown out of the rally.
In a statement just released by TIME editors, they say Morris stepped out of the press pen to photograph the protesters and then he swore at a Secret Service agent who tried to move Morris back into the pen. TIME editors said a video then shows the agent grabbing Morris' neck with both hands and throwing him into onto a table and then down the ground.
Once on the ground, TIME says, Morris kicked at the agent who was trying to restrain him and that later, once he was standing again, Morris briefly put his hand around the agent's neck in order to demonstrate the choke hold he had just experienced.
TIME says the U.S. Secret Service and local police briefly detained Morris after the incident.
"TIME has contacted the U.S. Secret Service to express concerns about the level and nature of the agent’s response," the statement said.
The U.S. Secret Service also put out a statement: “The Secret Service is aware of an incident involving an employee of the Secret Service that occurred earlier today in Radford, VA. At this time, our local field office is working with their law enforcement partners to determine the exact circumstances that led up to this incident. The Secret Service will provide further details as warranted once additional facts surrounding the situation are known.”
In a video posted online by CNN, Morris said, "I’m not pressing charges. I stepped 18 inches out of the pen and he grabbed me by the neck and started choking me and then he slammed me to the ground.”
NPPA has now released a statement regarding what happened at the rally today.
Morris is a celebrated photojournalist for covering war and politics, the White House, and he is a founding member of the VII Photo Agency. He's the past winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his coverage of conflict, and in 1992 he was the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the University of Missouri's 49th annual Pictures of the Year competition. Morris has been on contract with TIME since 1990, and covered the White House for the magazine from 2000 to 2009.
"Chris Morris is a friend, colleague, and a real pro. What the Secret Service agent did to him was inexcusable," David Hume Kennerly posted on FaceBook today. Kennerly was the official White House photographer for President Gerald Ford and is the 1972 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Photography for his portfolio of images from the Vietnam war.
"The guy should at the very least be reprimanded or possibly fired for violently attacking an accredited member of the press who was doing his job. They are there to protect the candidates from real threats, not to manhandle photographers. I've been working around the USSS for almost 50 years and have never seen anything like that."
Kennerly also wrote, "Chris can be faulted for using an expletive when the agent tried to block him from taking a photo, but their training definitely doesn't teach them to assault people for something they said - at least it didn't used to ...".
Kennerly went on to make it clear that he believes in the role of the U.S. Secret Service and acknowledges how "tough" their job is.
"I have dozens of close friends who have served as special agents with the service over my long career, and I'm not one of those people who criticizes them from the sidelines. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm hoping this isn't the beginning of a federal war on the press."