Monday, February 29, 2016

Secret Service Agent Brutally Choke Slams a Photographer at Trump Rally

This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. ET.

A Secret Service agent violently slammed a photographer to the ground during a Donald Trump rally held in Virginia on Monday.

The incident, which was captured in numerous videos, began when Christopher Morris, a Time magazine photographer, attempted to take photos of a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters, who disrupted the Trump rally by marching out with their hands above their heads.

He is stopped by an agent and then tells him, "Fuck you." The agent asks, "What?"

An Instagram video posted by a spectator then clearly shows the agent choking the journalist and slamming him to the ground. That video has been removed, but there is a GIF of what it looked like .

A longer version of that video can be seen on Storyful's YouTube.

A third video then shows the agent standing over Morris, who is kicking him away with both legs.

Joe Perticone, an Independent Journal reporter who recorded a video of the incident up close, described it as a "choke slam."

"Are we having a good time?" Trump reportedly asked his supporters as the incident unfolded, according to the Washington Examiner.

Morris, a war photographer who witnesses said was on assignment for TIME magazine, said he was arrested.

He was "credentialed press" and was trying to leave a press pen to photograph the protesters when he was forcefully stopped.

Time confirmed the situation and said it had reached out to the U.S. Secret Service "to express concerns about the level and nature of the agent's response."

Morris gave a short interview to CNN's Jim Acosta shortly after being ejected from the event.

"I stepped 18 inches out of the pen and he grabbed me by the neck and started choking me and slammed me to the ground," Morris said.

He told WSET reporter Annie Andersen that he was arrested after trying to show Trump's press official what the agent had done. "I said he choked me, so I put my hand on him, and that's when I was arrested," he said.

Benjamin Lowy, a photojournalist on assignment with the Wall Street Journal who was seen on video trying to break the two men apart, told Mashable the scuffle began in a "tug of war" of sorts before escalating. "All of a sudden the agent just kind grabbed him by the neck and slammed him down into the ground," he said.

Lowy said he told the agent he overreacted with the body slam.

"I said, 'Dude that was way over the top. Too much. You don't need to body slam a dude that's in his 60s to the ground,'" he said.

The agent responded that Morris had "put his hands on me" and so he was permitted to do the takedown.

It was initially unclear if the security staffer was a member of Trump's Secret Service detail or a member of his private security team, though a statement from the campaign cleared that up, and referred further questions to law enforcement.

The Secret Service said in a statement that it was investigating the incident.

Trump's campaign security has been criticized for roughing up reporters and otherwise restricting their access to his events in the past.

A Huffington Post story in January included a comment from the Secret Service that said, "Any restrictions on press movements above and beyond security related procedures are designated and enforced by staff, not by the Secret Service."

The agency has not yet commented on Monday's events.

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