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Tribune photographer pepper-sprayed during Utah Capitol protest

Physical and verbal assault is unacceptable attack on local journalism, writes Executive Editor Lauren Gustus.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake Tribune photographer Rick Egan feels the effects of being pepper sprayed in the eyes while documenting Trump supporters gathered outside the State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Journalism is enshrined in the First Amendment of our country’s Constitution.

And today on the lawn of Utah’s Capitol it was tossed aside.

While covering a largely peaceful gathering of those who oppose the results of our presidential election, a Salt Lake Tribune photojournalist was pepper-sprayed and verbally attacked.

The protester who sprayed photographer Rick Egan in the eyes had yelled, “Look at you in your f---ing mask, you p---y.” Another protester started shoving him. They were upset Rick was documenting the event.

(Taylor Stevens | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake Tribune photographer Rick Egan was peppered sprayed in the eyes and and verbally attacked, while covering a largely peaceful gathering of those who oppose the results of our presidential election at the Utah Capitol, Jan. 6, 2020. At right, is fellow Tribune photographer, Francisco Kjolseth, who rendered aid and helped Egan wash his eyes.

That is not freedom of speech. It is a physical and verbal attack on a journalist who was asked by his editor to cover the events at the Capitol, protests that mirrored others across the country and emanated from the chaos in Washington, D.C.

We believe in accountability, in our reporting, in our actions and in those of others.

And we believe in the power of local journalism. That the best way to lift up our communities is by better understanding what is happening in them.

Rick has worked for The Tribune for more than 36 years. He’s the photographer who shows up at an event on his day off because he believes so deeply in what he does.

I asked one of Rick’s colleagues what’s special about working with him.

“His heart for others less fortunate,” she said. “He became so emotional this week, telling me about Camp Last Hope and the selfless acts he witnessed while he was there photographing. He is all heart.”

And the lens through which he sees life inspires.

Rick is recovering. Local journalism will do so with your continued support.


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