The Protest Story You Haven’t Seen: Hero Saves Photographer From Angry Mob

It was Saturday night a little over a week ago… my phone was blowing up… texts from reporters and cops…“Riots at PPG Arena!” “Police car burning!” “People hurt down here!”

Watching the live news feed… it was gut wrenching. Smoke and flames. Thousands of peaceful protesters… a handful of radicals creating havoc.

I texted my friend in the middle all it. Ian Smith is a KDKA-TV news photographer. I said: “Be careful. Not worth dying.”

Turns out my words of caution came too late.

The day after the attack. Protesters kicked Ian in the head, leaving him with injuries including concussion-like symptoms.Ian Smith

Ian was just doing his job. He’s wonderful at it. He was crossing the street in front of PPG Paints Arena… trying to get video of a burning Pittsburgh police car. A protest organizer can be heard shouting: “Stop the cameraman! Stop the cameraman!” And they did.

Ian, far left in dark shirt and brown shorts, is chased by a few protesters who will soon turn into a mob.Facebook

Watch the video below. Watch as a group of people chases Ian across the street, mobs him, then attacks him, beating him and kicking him in the head. You can clearly see a young man lifting Ian’s fifty-thousand-dollar-plus camera over his head and smashing it to the ground.

The guy who videotaped the attack can be heard asking “Why they beating that man?!” Then as suddenly as they started to attack you can see the mob back off. I’ll explain why in a minute:

There’s only one reason we know why people stopped beating Ian (he told me he could hear people yelling “Kill him! Kill him!”). That “reason” is a person. Her name is Alexa Chapman.

It’s hard to see in the video, but Alexa jumped on top of Ian while he was being beaten, hoping to blunt the force of the blows. Ian later told me “Alexa probably saved my life.”

Protesters run toward the commotion. Under there, somewhere, Alexa is throwing her body on top of Ian’s.Facebook

Alexa was kind enough to send me her bio. She describes herself as a drag queen. Legal Name Danny Marrero. “At 5ft 6in., (Alexa) Chapman is a gay U.S. Army reservist in Aviation Operation Administration,” says the bio. “A native of Fajardo, a port city, a little over an hour east of San Juan. A black Puerto Rican, she initially moved to Pittsburgh to study journalism at Point Park University four years ago and moonlights on the side at bars around the Steel City as a drag queen.”

Alexa told me she made the split second decision to jump on top of Ian to protect him.

She told me violent “outsiders” saw her tiny frame on top of Ian and backed off. Alexa is so kind she found Ian on social media the next day and apologized for jumping on top of him. Seriously!

Alexa, left, told me she came to protest peacefully. Instead, it was an emotional roller-coaster.Alexa Chapman

Ian was hospitalized with concussion like symptoms, cuts and bruises. But he’s alive. Alexa was a bit sore, but more beaten down emotionally. “Why couldn’t it just be peaceful?” she said to me. “Why did outsiders have to ruin it!” In the end, they didn’t. The message has gotten louder and clearer in peaceful protests that continue across the country.

We all must do better. We all must make a difference together. Alexa is a hero. Alexa gives us all hope. Here at Sparkt… that means so much.

About Marty Griffin
Marty is a past recipient of three prestigious Regional Emmys for Outstanding Investigative Reporting and also won a Broadcast Achievement Award for an undercover story about Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys. He was named the Best Talk Show Host in Pittsburgh in 2008 for the Pittsburgh Achievement in Radio Awards. Marty shakes things up weekdays 9 am to noon on KDKA Radio.

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