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Fox's Llenas: Reporting amid violent protests forcing journalists to keep their 'head on a swivel'

Fox's Llenas: Reporting amid violent protests forcing journalists to keep their 'head on a swivel'
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Fox News National Correspondent Bryan Llenas says reporting from protests that turn violent in New York City in recent days has taught him to keep "his head on a swivel."

Llenas said reporters need to balance live reporting with "being aware of your surroundings and safety."

A number of reporters have been harassed or injured by both protestors and police amid the nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). A CNN crew was briefly arrested in Minneapolis last week. 

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Llenas has primarily been reporting from Manhattan and Brooklyn for Fox News and local New York affiliate Fox-5 over the past week.

"Your head is on a swivel," Llenas said in a phone interview with The Hill. "You're having to make — in real time — decisions about trying to process what is happening and then report live on television, all while being aware of your surroundings and your safety."

"Not every news organization provides security for their crews," he noted. "Luckily, Fox News has done that for us, but there are photojournalists out there who are freelancers who are by themselves. It is a frightening situation when you are simply just trying to distance yourself, but then a charge happens from police, or the dynamic of the situation changes so quickly, then something you simply can't avoid it."

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Llenas also said reporters may be targeted by agitators based on the news organization they represent.

Last Friday, Fox News anchor Leland Vittert and his crew were chased and harassed by protesters while covering a demonstration outside the White House. One member of Vittert's crew was punched in the face and projectiles were throw at the Fox team.

"There are people in these situations who ask where you work," Llenas said. "There are people looking to figure out where you work. That is a situation that reporters have to deal with that all the time no matter where you work, because there are people who want to target you just based on where you work."

"I think it’s a bad situation and it stinks how hard it is to do this job during these times because you’re just trying to do your job as a journalist, and people have already made up their minds about what you are doing on the scene simply based on where you work," he said. "And so it’s a dangerous situation we're dealing with ... it’s sad we’re at that point."

The threat of contracting the novel coronavirus is also a concern with social distancing guidelines and masks being ignored or dismissed by hundreds of thousands of people protesting.

"The first day that I was out in the protests on Saturday at Union Square in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, my fiance Kyle was watching. And we made the decision that he needed for him to go to Illinois, to go with his family," Llenas shared. "We made the decision that if I'm going to be exposed to so many people, the last thing I want to do is to get him sick."

"I do plan on getting tested for COVID personally. Probably early next week. That is going to be my personal decision and we'll see," he added. "That is going to be the other question: the anxiety over COVID in the back of our minds when we're out there, and I'm trying to wearing my mask as often as I can when I'm off camera. The problem is, when I'm on camera, if you can't understand me then there's no point. It's another whole layer of things that adds a whole other dynamic to this unprecedented situation."

Llenas, 31, became a correspondent in 2013 but has been with the network overall since 2010.