EDIT: We're taking a break, but I'll come back to answer more later today. Thanks so much for your great questions.

My name is Julio-César Chávez and I’m a reporter/producer with Reuters currently covering the protests in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed for the past week. Friday I covered the violence that broke out in Minneapolis with people breaking into stores and some buildings being set on fire, including a mechanic’s shop where he lost nine customer cars but was able to save his garage and ten other cars. Saturday I covered a peaceful protest when police ended up using tear gas and flash-bang grenades to break up the crowd after 8 pm curfew, and was one of the journalists injured by police when I was shot with rubber bullets.

I started with Reuters in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria and mostly covered immigration while living in El Paso, the shooting at Walmart, and was moved to DC two months ago to work with the television team. So if it’s about my current coverage, past experiences, or how hard it is to find good flour tortillas when moving from the Mexican border to DC go ahead and ask me anything. Please note that I am not permitted to answer questions about my personal views on the protests.

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Comments: 1103 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

theyeemachee665 karma

Hi, I’ve been studying Media Bias in my civics class at school. Reuter’s is know to be one of the least biased news sources out there. When reporting in the field, especially now, is it difficult to stay unbiased and not pick a side?

reuters1271 karma

It’s not difficult to be unbiased when you stick to the facts. Just keep recording and show what’s in front of you, while making sure you don’t pick and choose what you cover. Cover everything writing/recording/photographing the facts and then you stay unbiased. - JCC

myops_rock531 karma

What are the demands of the protesters?

reuters1739 karma

The most common demands amongst protesters in Minneapolis were the arrest of all four officers involved (which already happened after days of protests and investigation) and police reform to keep officers more accountable.

The second point will take longer, since it requires legal and political action, but a state senator told me at Mr. Floyd’s funeral that she is proposing a bill where police officers would be required to live in the cities they serve, since right now more than 90% of Minneapolis officers don’t live in the city itself. - JCC

AmberSmithInk467 karma

I want to know where journalists and demonstrators are able to use the bathroom! Stores and restaurants are closed, right? So where do you go?

reuters713 karma

It’s so hot with the people and the bulletproof vests that you end up sweating a lot, which means you don’t need to use the restroom.

For the Saturday march in DC there has been a growing network of businesses and theaters that will open their doors to people so they can use the restroom. - JCC

cedreamge314 karma

How do the protests really look like? Do you think the situation can be compared to other moments such as the unrest following Rodney King? How do you think today differs from yesterday?

reuters664 karma

I learned about Rodney King in high school. I 100% expect my kids will learn about George Floyd in their own history classes.

The protests are these massive seas of people, chanting, with signs and wearing masks. They can pack an entire highway.

The protests in Minneapolis have calmed down after the show of force on Saturday and then they really calmed down after the three other officers were arrested. We’ll have to wait and see what happens Monday when Chauvin has his court date for his murder charges. - JCC

AlarminglyConfused250 karma

How do media outlets including yours in particular plan on protecting its members from indiscrimate action by police. We have already seen dozens of videos of the free press being arrested, assaulted and shot at. Alot of Americans including me, believe an attack on the press is an attack on everyone. Has anyone from your offices spoke with police in the area? Also, i have yet to see a point made in any media outlet about how in these particular protests, the police view themselves as counter protesters.. which as weve already seen, can be extremely deadly.

reuters715 karma

I can tell you how Reuters keeps me and my colleagues safe. Every Reuters reporter that could maybe cover something remotely dangerous is required to have hostile environment training, set up and paid for by the company. When I was a stringer in El Paso they paid for my flight and hotel to DC for the two-day course where we learned how to stay safe in a riot, how to take cover from gunfire, and how to manage ourselves in a natural disaster.

We also got first aid training and a med kit, which I keep on me when reporting on things like this. The training obviously paid off, because I was able to quickly get my med kit out and treat my injured security advisor who had been shot in the face by a plastic bullet and had cut his hands and wrists open as we ran to safety

We are also all sent out with bulletproof vests, gas masks, ballistic glasses, and helmets.

While I feel safe with Reuters, freelance reporters who work for other outlets are often not offered the same safety training and gear.

I personally believe agencies should not send their reporters to dangerous situations without keeping them safe, something I'm fortunate Reuters does for all staff and freelancers. - JCC

DevonianAge250 karma

There's a lot of noise and confusion about who exactly is rioting, damaging property, etc. Many on the right say antifa is responsible, many on the left suspect covert/infiltration action by far right/ white supremacist/ boogaloo groups, and it also appears that the police themselves may be instigating a lot of it.

What's your take on this, and is Reuters working to get to the bottom of this question?

Phyllostchys187 karma

Are people concerned about covid 19? Do they see this as worth the risk, or are they dismissive of that risk? What measures do you see being used to mitigate it's spread?

reuters418 karma

By people don’t you mean protesters or reporters?

With protesters I was told by a couple of them that people know the risk, but they’re young and the super high risk was worth it if it helped bring about change.

For reporters we knew what we were getting ourselves into and so did our bosses, which is why we were all issued N95 masks and N99 gas masks. I still plan to get tested a couple days after getting home, after I cover the million strong protest expected in DC Saturday. - JCC

selepack147 karma

Have you tried making your own tortillas? Use real lard and you should be good.

Edit: Downvoted for tortilla talk? Please forgive me for trying to inject a split second of levity.

Edit 2: Upvoted, as tortillas should be. Lard is necessary. 😁

reuters239 karma

Rehkit100 karma

I saw a reporter on twitter say that high-vis vest and other equipment identify as press too much and therefore modified the behavior of people around him and making his job more difficult.

However high-vis vest and other kind of equipment would make it harder for police to confuse a journalist with a protester/rioter (let's assume that what happened) when they follow the crowd.

Do you share this journalist concern about high-vis equipment?

Do you think it is a real dilemma and where do you fall on this question of mixing in the crowd to catch its true reaction vs some protection against the police.

reuters191 karma

Following the advice of a friend who covered Ferguson I wore my own bulletproof vest under my shirt. The camera in my hands is identifying enough, and yes people always change their behavior a bit around reporters but it’s not so much that it’s a concern. - JCC

ahlamuna91 karma

I am from Minneapolis originally and returned there right before the protests. I have been on the front lines of protests, listening to organizers and others. I don’t feel that the media coverage is reflecting the reality of the vast majority of protests here.
Being here on the ground, do you feel that the media coverage of the protests in Minneapolis have been representative and balanced?

reuters140 karma

We have been consistently covering the peaceful protests and sit ins. I had an hour long live shot of the Capitol sit in that our clients took and broadcast as well.

You won’t catch all the coverage because you’re not watching the news 24/7 (I hope, if you are please get some sleep) - JCC

t3jan089 karma

How many episodes of police brutality have you recorded? How many episodes of human kindness have you recorded?

reuters178 karma

one night (Saturday) of extremely strong response by police, about five days of peaceful protest coverage - JCC

adminhotep86 karma

What was the threat assessment for journalists at the beginning of this thing? Were you warned that police would be arresting you, attacking you with batons, shooting at you with rubber bullets, sending tear gas at you?

I understand that as journalists you may want to be there regardless of the personal threat, but was Reuters or other parent companies aware that police would be so incredibly hostile to media presence from the outset, or was that a surprise to them?

reuters164 karma

My boss asked if I had hostile environment training and if I would be comfortable going. I said yes. We both knew the risks of sending me in and we both accepted them.

We can’t know for sure how things will be, that’s why we’re always prepared ahead of time with serious training to handle ourselves in violent situations and we were all sent with the safety equipment we would need, like bullet proof vests and helmets.

It was a surprise, to be sure (not a welcome one) but we got through it because we were ready from the beginning. - JCC

lyoungbk71878 karma

Hi Julio! Do people know who/what Reuters is when you are out in the field? Curious how they treat you vs. NYT, WSJ, etc.

reuters198 karma

Fun fact! A lot of people knew what Reuters was in Minneapolis because our corporate office (the Thomson side of Thomson Reuters) is in Eagan, a Minneapolis suburb. So a lot of mpls residents connected my microphone flag to the place where their friends work

Besides that most regular news readers in the US aren’t always familiar. I usually explain it as “you know the associated press? They’re our competition” - JCC

lyoungbk71848 karma

The big test is if they say ROO-ters or ROY-ters.

FranzHanzeGoatfucker21 karma

Well which is it???

reuters94 karma


brodymulligan71 karma

What is the scariest situation you have ever been in?

reuters277 karma

The Walmart shooting in El Paso. I expected it to be some random guy who let off a couple of potshots and maybe a few injuries. I did not expect 20 people dead at the scene as part of a racially targeted attack and every single law enforcement agency turning up. It was chaos in the parking lot. I was scared not for myself but for what happened.

I got a text from a cousin around 3 pm telling me she had been inside with her daughters. It was scary for one second I til I realized that if she was texting me it meant she and nieces were safe. They were, and the girls spent the night with me.

The scariest part of it all? Watching the news in English that night. My little 4-year-old niece only speaks Spanish rn but Walmart is the same in all languages.

She quietly told me how they were inside the Walmart and then loud noises happened and her mom got them out. I asked if she was scared. She stayed quiet. She tried to nod but couldn’t and fell asleep in my arms.

That was scary.

This trip made it scarier when I asked a mom how she will explain the situation to her own little boy and then I realized one day I will need to have the same conversation with my own kids. It makes me tear up. - JCC

deepstertoo64 karma

What’s your take on the wrongful arrest of a CNN journalist and crew during the protest? What would you have done if you were them at that time?

reuters187 karma

What would you have done if you were them at that time?

Just don’t stop rolling - JCC

BartholomewBibulus47 karma

How many people are actually out in the streets protesting?

reuters135 karma

Thousands, though it has calmed down a lot in Minneapolis. I am serious when I say thousands, it’s incredible to see all the people marching together. - JCC

jarg21745 karma

Has it remained peaceful so far?

reuters110 karma

Things really calmed down after Saturday night, when police went out in full force to control the protesters.

Sunday saw more protests, even blocking the freeway and with dozens of arrests, but there has not been the kind of violence I saw Friday night when stores were broken into, a bank was broken into and set on fire, and the building across the street from our original hotel was set on fire which forced us to move downtown. - JCC

neotekz43 karma

How many times have you been shot at with rubber bullets or pepper balls?

reuters79 karma

Only Saturday night when I was shot at four times, hit twice - JCC

SureValla42 karma

As someone who is around the protests alot, can you give a rough estimate what percentage of the protesters are peaceful compared to people looting and rioting?

Followup: Do you think the media overall reflects these percentages correctly or is it skewed?

reuters152 karma

A good 95% of people are peaceful protestors. The violence usually broke out later at night when peaceful protestors started going home.

I do think they are represented fairly. The raw coverage is fair, we’re at every march, but we can’t ignore when violence breaks out either. Just keep in mind that burning buildings get upvoted just as much as acts of kindness, so it may seem like they’re covered 50/50. So make sure you get news straight from a newscast and news website, not just the front page. - JCC

DesolateSkills42 karma

Do you hear any protestors discussing about reforming the police unions which Reuters has reported as contributing to keeping "bad cops" on the force?

reuters72 karma

Yes, those were discussions brought up by speakers at different protests. Not union-wise, but I did speak to a state senator who said she is proposing a bill to require police officers to live in the city they serve. - JCC

_username69__41 karma

Hola Julio Cesar! How did you begin in journalism? What has been the general feeling among reporters and journalists covering the protests? Thank you!

reuters125 karma

I come from a family of cops and journalists. My grandfather was chief of transit in Juarez and a radio presenter, so my family all grew up with a strong sense of public service.

I took journalism classes in high schools be for a job as a wedding photographer from 16-20. Took journalism at community college and had an internship with my local ABC station, where I got hired at 20 years old. I worked at KVIA for 5 years until Reuters picked me up to move to DC as a producer covering elections (what are campaigns anymore?)

I still remember my grandfather’s face when I told him I did a piece for the BBC, he was beaming. I’ll give them a call when I land at home (my mom already told them I was fine) - JCC

kenjbool32 karma

Would you rather work for Hooters or Reuters?

reuters153 karma

Reuters but props to Hooters because during the El Paso shooting their manager stayed behind and he gave us all a place to work with water to drink. - JCC

urxlncgeo26 karma

What are your feeling on law enforcement now seemingly to target journalists?

What, if any, protections or actions is your organization taking to make sure that you are safe?

Are their any plans to hold the offenders of the actions against journalists reporting on the protests accountable?

Your doing a damn important job. Good luck and stay safe.

reuters77 karma

Are their any plans to hold the offenders of the actions against journalists reporting on the protests accountable?

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit for the violence against journalists. - JCC

Thekingoftheshrimp26 karma

Do you have any advice for a student journalist at a college paper preparing to cover their first protest? It's expected to be pretty small so I'm not super concerned about safety, more so earning the trust of organizers and making sure a diverse range of voices are being heard.

reuters79 karma

Keep your N95 mask on if you have one, and if not DM me so I can mail you one (if you live in DC even better) The biggest risk right now is getting sick, so it’s important to keep safe while starting off on this important career path.

Coverage wise take good photos, talk to people about how they feel things might change, and safety wise never ever get between protesters and police unless they’re singing kumbaya - JCC

betheclown24 karma

Did had any negative experience while you had repotting?

reuters70 karma

yeah dude, I got shot with rubber bullets and my security advisor was shot with them as well. In the face. Wanna see? - JCC https://twitter.com/juliocesrchavez/status/1266980841441419265?s=21

jackp0t78920 karma

Welcome and thank you for your time and your coverage Julio-Cesar!

I have two questions for you:

  1. At what point in your coverage did you feel that either the protesters or the police truly crossed the Rubicon, so to speak?
  2. What was your first reaction to realizing that not only were you being hit by rubber bullets, but specifically targeted by the police though you were clearly press? Would you say that you felt stabbed in the back?

reuters41 karma

  1. It was a peaceful protest and police were marching up. Then someone threw something. I legitimately don’t remember who started it, but after that first thing was thrown then panic erupted, police started using flash bangs and the protesters scattered.
  2. First bullet: flies past me as I’m putting on my mask and idiot me grabs it. “Oh this is a rubber bullet” then “Julio what are you doing, GET YOUR STUFF ON AND RUN”. Then I actually got shot. I was too focused on evacuating to feel stabbed in the back. - JCC

Kiwi_Nibbler16 karma

Is their formal education or licensing to declare that you're a journalist or can anyone make the same claim?

reuters33 karma

Anyone can claim it. The regular standards are that you dedicate your time to writing or photographing news events and distribute to an audience - JCC

yearof3914 karma

You mentioned all the preparation; after something like this or the other stories you mentioned like Hurricane Maria or El Paso, do they provide counseling, time off, that kind of stuff? Do they offer any kind of ongoing counseling and support just to make sure you're ok day to day?

reuters61 karma

I needed serious therapy after the El Paso shooting because my cousin and my nieces had been inside (no injuries) and Reuters has an established program and company policy where they paid for my therapy in full. I have a little card with the phone number to call if I ever need it. Work doesn’t see who requests help, they just get the bill and pay it all - JCC

integrityfan13 karma

Has there been any improvement in conditions for people held at our border? Are you worried about COVID?

reuters26 karma

Expedited removals are now a thing because of COVID, so some people are being turned around at the border really quickly instead of being taken into custody. Shelters are struggling to house the few people they can without starting a COVID outbreak themselves. - JCC

kilroyrlc13 karma

How does it work when police assault or detain journalists unlawfully? I assume the company follows up to get you guys released, but is there civil action? A complaint with the PD? Is there no legal recourse cause "oops, police forgot how to read"?

reuters34 karma

Our security director gave us all the phone numbers for Thomson Reuters attorneys and we wrote them on our arms with sharpie - JCC

DarkPhilosopher2210 karma

How do protesters/rioters treat you, in general? What is their stance towards Reuters?

reuters33 karma

Protesters have been very supportive of the press. I have been straight up thanked by dozens of people for being there, documenting and writing. I was developing a good relationship with the medics as well.

As to people breaking into buildings and stealing stuff, they would avoid the cameras- JCC

LetsTCB9 karma

What are all the good / positive / happy / etc. things you have seen while covering the protests -- big or small?

reuters19 karma

I was touched when I interviewed this uncle at Mr. Floyd’s funeral and he talked about the challenges he would face raising his nephew, saying he hopes the world is different enough that he doesn’t need to have a tough conversation about being looked at as a threat. - JCC

producermaddy8 karma

How do you feel about your safety as a journalist covering these protests? I myself am a journalist (producer) and am worried about field crews. What is Reuters doing to protect your safety?

reuters14 karma

We’re provided with intensive hostile environment training and safety equipment like vests and helmets. You can find a more in-depth answer here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/gx5mns/im_a_journalist_with_reuters_covering_the/fsz9a3u/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

Njdy7 karma

Have you had any positive interactions with others throughout the protest?

reuters16 karma

Plenty! When we were injured a nurse patched up my security advisor’s face. When I was going to do the medic story the firefighter in charge told me he would grab me if I was around and he needed an extra pair of hands. An uncle I interviewed Thursday at Mr. Floyd’s funeral thanked me for my work and for being there sharing the story - JCC

phoenix-corn7 karma

Since you mentioned it--what are your tortilla recommendations for the greater DC area? :)

reuters9 karma

I haven't found any places with good flour tortillas yet :( but for corn I recommend El Milagro available at El Progreso and Megamart - JCC

TheFauxFox6 karma

Pineapple on pizza?

reuters24 karma

Pepperoni pineapple pizza was my dinner for many nights in Puerto Rico while covering Hurricane Maria. Yes, pineapple on pizza. It’s delicious. - JCC

abstlouis965 karma

How did you become a Reuters journalist? Did you have prior experience when you signed up?

reuters12 karma

I was a reporter for my local ABC station in El Paso when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. I embedded with the Army helicopter unit out of El Paso to report on their relief mission. Also embedded on that mission was Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson. Given my Spanish I did all the interviews and at the end of the trip Lucas asked me to collaborate on a photo essay. I did the writing, he edited his photos, and his bosses liked it enough that they ran it. I went back home and was reporting out of El Paso until I applied for a job and was asked to join full time in DC as a producer covering elections. - JCC

smilingonion5 karma

Previously every time some small group of people have broken quarantine the next day we are told the rate of Covid infections 'sharply rose' because of their irresponsible actions but now we have tens of thousands of people protesting all crowded together it has yet to be reported how many new people are now infected by this virus

What's up with that?

reuters2 karma

COVID has an incubation period that can go as long as two weeks. We will probably start seeing the reflection next week - JCC

YarkiK5 karma

With the recent news of journalists being injured during these protests/riots in the US, why are the journalists not dressed as in other protests around the world?(safety equipment on)

reuters7 karma

Because not every news agency has the money to buy the safety equipment and pay for serious training - JCC

MJMurcott4 karma

With the number of journalists being injured by the police are you worried for your own safety?

reuters3 karma

I’m not worried for myself but I am worried for others who don’t have the resources we do. For me personally I just focus and redouble my training. - JCC

eekamuse3 karma

I know about the Committee to Protect Journalists, but can you tell me any other organizations that are doing good work to help journalists in dangerous situations? I know there is one that teaches medical basics for treating traumatic injuries. Not sure the name, though.

reddiliciously3 karma

How do you protect yourself when covering the protests?

Thank you for doing this!

reuters8 karma

Bullet proof vest, gas mask, helmet, and a whole lot of training. Oh yeah, also our security advisor was next to me almost all the time and he’s a retired Royal Marine, so that just doubles my safety. - JCC

AlexWheeldon3 karma

Ketchup or mustard on hot dogs? Or both, or neither?

reuters7 karma

I’m from Texas, I like plain chilli dogs with mayo on the bun and chilli on top - JCC

THEDUKES22 karma

With press being fired upon, and arrested, what is Reuter’s doing in the event you are injured or arrested? Doing they hire a legal rep on retainer in your area you are covering to immediately help you?

reuters3 karma

Our security director gave us all the phone numbers for Thomson Reuters attorneys and we wrote them on our arms with sharpie - JCC

malhotraspokane-7 karma

Who do you think organized the looters? Is there proof it was Antifa?