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NBC News' Jo Ling Kent hit by flash-bang grenade at Seattle protest live on air

"Several people were hit with rubber bullets in the arm, in the back and in the head," Kent said, adding that three police officers were also injured.
/ Source: TODAY

A peaceful protest in Seattle Monday night devolved into chaos, and NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent was live on air when a flash-bang grenade hit her arm.

Kent was covering the demonstrations in the area, prompted by the death of George Floyd, the black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

The protest started as a march in downtown Seattle, Kent told TODAY via email, and the goal was to get to the city's east precinct, but protestors were stopped a block early by police barricades, which appeared to be reinforced by the National Guard.

"I remember turning to my producer Ezra Kaplan and our crew, Sam Winslade and Cory Leibin, and remarking what a powerful sight it was: thousands of people walking arm in arm, speaking out for change with downtown Seattle as the backdrop," Kent said.

"The situation began disintegrating after 9 p.m., three hours after the city-wide curfew went into effect," she continued. "Tensions suddenly boiled over at the police barricades with protestors yelling and officers moving forward with tear gas."

Video from the scene — a baseball field in the Capitol Hill neighborhood — shows Kent and her crew equipped with gas masks and people in the background running and screaming.

At that point, "a device landed to my left and appeared to have bounced before grazing my arm," she said, adding on Twitter that she wasn't injured and her jacket sleeve was singed.

The device in question was a flash-bang grenade, which created an explosion next to Kent in the video. NBC News previously reported that law enforcement in Seattle have been using them to disperse crowds.

Kent and her crew were able to leave the fields and find a safe place to regroup and get back on the air.

"We worried for the safety of protestors and everyone around us," Kent said. "Several people were hit with rubber bullets in the arm, in the back and in the head. The Seattle PD later told us three officers were also injured."

"Protestors in Seattle are passionate and mostly peaceful," she continued. "The people I have interviewed are deeply worried about injustice throughout our country and decided to come out, risking their health in a pandemic, to mobilize that change."

Since the protests broke out last week, journalists across the country have been injured while trying to cover the ongoing unrest.

In one example on Friday night, Kaitlin Rust, a reporter for local NBC affiliate WAVE3 in Louisville, Kentucky, exclaimed on air that she was "getting shot" by either rubber or pepper bullets, NBC News reported. The crew member captured a police officer shooting directly at the camera.

Also on Friday, CNN reported that one of its crews in Minneapolis was wrongly arrested and placed in handcuffs, even after identifying themselves to police officers.