Award-winning photographer Ray Chávez won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award for breaking news photo. The winning image shows Oakland police officers reacting to fires set by Occupy Oakland protesters in the early morning hours of Nov. 3.
“It’s an honor to win a prestigious award that recognizes the hard work that we all do in this downsizing news industry. I know that there are so many great photos out there by high caliber colleagues who covered the Occupy movement and other breaking news events. Because of that, I imagine the judges had hard times choosing mine as the winner,” Ray tells me.
Covering the Occupy movement turned out to be a dangerous feat for Ray.
“The Occupy movement was a unique experience, a historical event that brought people together from different backgrounds. Though, the violence has nothing to do with the movement, a reason that divided peaceful protesters from the anarchists. I had several confrontations with them and with police too. In fact, I was hit with a less-than-lethal projectile on my torso. My flash – not the camera – was broken by an Oakland Police officer. I was pushed away and I got hit a few times with batons in my torso while covering arrests in Oakland and Berkeley. I was tear gassed the same night when an Iraq vet was severely injured too. It’s hard to breath and focus without gas masks. I never thought police was going to use that to disperse the crowd, at least not that night.”
Ray describes what happened during the different days and nights covering the encampments and protests in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco leading to the Oakland PD crackdown on Nov. 3.
“The end of the Occupy movement is uncertain and it seems that we’re going to to be occupied again beginning Mayhem until who knows when.”