Journalist blinded after eye 'explodes' during protests

·5-min read

A freelance photojournalist was blinded by a rubber bullet to the face, while covering the protests in Minneapolis in the wake George Floyd’s death.

Linda Tirado was documenting the protests when she was struck by a rubber bullet, which was reportedly fired by police.

Mr Floyd’s death has sparked protests around the US, rallying against police brutality.

Live blog: George Floyd protests sweep across the US

Ms Tirado shared photos of her eye to Twitter, following the ordeal, urging people to stay safe while she underwent surgery.

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In an update after surgery, Ms Tirado said she is now permanently blind in her left eye and the doctors have said she is not allowed to work for six weeks.

She explained it is believed she took a rubber bullet to the face.

“It exploded my eyeball, which has now been patched back together but who knows if it’ll need more surgery. My vision is gone no matter what it winds up looking like scar wise,” she wrote.

“But it wasn’t my photography eye so it’s not career-ending. I can still see flowers and sunsets, just maybe I won’t be able to tell how far away they are.

Despite the horrific injury, Ms Tirado has asked the coverage not be about her.

“I appreciate the well wishes but a white lady losing an eye is not the injury we need to be focusing on here,” she said.

“Keep in mind that folks are protesting the extra-judicial killing of black and brown people.”

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Protests have taken place all over the US, following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was subject to alleged police brutality on May 25, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes, while Mr Floyd was heard saying “I can’t breathe”.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry from those marching in Mr Floyd’s memory.

A woman attends a demonstration calling for justice for George Floyd in Montreal. Floyd died after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. Source: AP
A woman attends a demonstration in Montreal calling for justice for George Floyd. Source: AP

Mr Floyd’s death was the latest in a series of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police in the US.

A group called Utah Against Police Brutality, which organised the car caravan part of the protest, said in a statement Sunday on Facebook that demonstrations reflect “what happens when elected officials, police departments, and leaders ignore the constant call for justice in the US”.

“This is what happens when the people get tired of waiting for Salt Lake and Utah to do something about racist cops and police violence,” the group said.

“This is what happens when they refuse to listen, refuse to reform, refuse to hold officers accountable, and refuse to do what has been asked of them over and over again. This is what happens when police target black and brown people and communities for years with no consequence.”

Protesters march away from the State Capitol, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota, demanding justice for George Floyd. Source: AP
Protesters march away from the State Capitol, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota, demanding justice for George Floyd. Source: AP

The Black Lives Matter movement was formed after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer.

Mr Martin was just 17-years-old and unarmed when he was shot dead by George Zimmerman in Florida.

“We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” the Black Lives Matter movement says on their website.

“The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.”

Protests across the world, defying coronavirus restrictions

Protests demanding racial equality have taken place across the globe.

“No justice! No peace!” thousands chanted in London on Sunday, waving placards with the words “How many more?”.

The protestors ignored the UK’s rules banning crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic, but police didn’t stop them. Demonstrators then marched to the US Embassy, where a long line of officers surrounded the building. Several hundred milled around in the street and waved placards.

Activists gathered with placards at Trafalgar Square during the George Floyd demonstration. Source: Sipa USA
Activists gathered with placards at Trafalgar Square during the George Floyd demonstration. Source: Sipa USA

Protesters in Denmark also converged on the US Embassy on Sunday. Participants carried placards with messages such as “Stop Killing Black People.”

Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper on Sunday carried the headline “This killer-cop set America ablaze” with an arrow pointing to a photo of now-fired Chauvin, the newspaper’s story reported “scenes like out of a civil war.”

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