OTJ assault

For the second time in three years, a journalist has been assaulted on the job in Alaska, but this time the victim says she doesn’t think she was the intended target.

Radio Kenai news director Jennifer Williams suffered bruises and lacerations to her face and chest on Tuesday when an object tossed from a passing motor vehicle hit her. Williams was at the time covering a Planned Parenthood rally dueling with a cross-street anti-abortion rally in Soldotna.

In a telephone interview today, Williams said she had just finished talking to anti-abortion protesters and walked across the street to interview a pro-abortion activist.

She was in the middle of that interview, she said, when a motor vehicle went past, someone yelled “you’re going to hell,” and she felt an object hit her face and chest. She was not paying attention to the traffic, she said, so she doesn’t know what sort of motor vehicle was involved, and the woman she was interviewing saw nothing because her back was to the road.

“I grabbed the woman I was interviewing,” Williams said, and the two of them moved farther from the road and closer to the bulk of protesters.

“I didn’t realize how bad I had been hit,” Williams said. “The adrenalin happened so fast. They were yelling at us out of a vehicle. I thought maybe it was an egg.”

It wasn’t until she later got into her truck that she realized she was bleeding. She reported the incident to the Soldotna Police Department on Wednesday and returned to the scene of the attack with an SPD officer, but they found no hint of what might have hit her.

The officer thought it might have been a heavy plastic bottle given what appeared to be burn-like abrasions where it hit her, Williams said. She later reported the attack on the radio.

Since then, she said, the outpouring of support from both anti- and pro-abortion activists has been overwhelming.

“Both rallies, the pro- and the anti- have been great,” she said. “We live in a small community” where people are generally pretty tolerant.

Soldotna is home to about 4,700. Another 7,800 live 17 miles down the Kenai Spur Highway in the city of Kenai. The greater Kenai area about 60 miles south of Anchorage is home to almost 35,000.

Clearcut confrontation

The previous assault on an Alaska journalist happened in the capital city of Juneau in 2017.

In that case, Anchorage Daily News reporter Nat Herz – now at Alaska Public Media – reported being slapped by state Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, in a Capitol hallway.

Herz was less upfront than Williams. He filed a report with the Juneau Police Department accusing Wilson of assault, but then refused to answer questions about the incident, claiming instead to have provided “a full and detailed account” to a colleague at the newspaper. 

Wilson obliquely admitted to touching Herz, but said “It was not an aggressive act. I have an inner child that sometimes gets out….I have no ill will for Nat.”

There were no witnesses to the incident, and it was never fully clear whether Wilson smacked Herz across the face hard enough for the slap to be heard, simply patted him on the cheek, or something between.

No charges were ever brought against Wilson. The state’s Office of Special Prosecutions investigated and concluded it would be hard to make a case against Wilson. The state early on rejected the idea of an assault charge and considered a lesser, misdemeanor charge of second-degree harassment.

In a letter to the Juneau Police Department, Chief Assistant Attorney General Andrew Peterson eventually wrote that “it is unlikely that the state will be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Senator Wilson acted with the specific intent to harass or annoy Mr. Herz,” reported.

Journalism is one of Alaska’s safest professions. Injuries are rare; deaths even more so if one discounts the documented hazards of the sedentary lifestyle. An increasing number of studies tie long periods of sitting to early death, and many journos spend a lot of time sitting.









19 replies »

  1. There are different possible explanations, besides that ‘apparently’ someone in a passing car threw something. As noted, the shouted “you’re going to hell” isn’t a real good fit for the context.

    Someone could have lobbed something – a bottle – at the car, and either missed or it bounced off the car. That no object could be found laying around at the scene is suspicious, suggesting that it was retrieved.

    It’s not easy to throw well from a car window. As noted, it’s questionable whether the injured person was the target at all. It could have been fairly accidental … and realizing there could now be trouble, the evidence was quietly collected.

    It’s also a little suspicious that nobody knows nothing about a car. Small community, some kind of yelling, and a reporter and interviewee immediately retreating … and everyone present is “Car? What car?”

  2. Hey Craig,

    I remember when the comments after your articles were from a large group of people. Including people like Dick Griffith and Tim Kelley. People who had wisdom to share about this amazing place where (some of us, anyway) live. People who have demonstrated insight into how to live here well and how to move through and exist in the Alaskan landscape with grace and skill. Those comments were worth reading.

    Now, however, every single article you post is followed by the same half dozen “people” shoving their political agendas down your readers’ throats.

    But, wait, it gets better. You now have a community of “readers and thinkers” threatening to give out “bitch slaps” to anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    I suppose you don’t care much because controversy will (in the short term, anyway) bump your numbers up, but I think people who actually read and think will go elsewhere for their news of Alaska. I know I will.

    Good luck.

    • Pete,
      You like so many of your generation toss out words with little relevance to today’s society…
      Those of us who have maintained a presence on this site do it out of “enjoyment” and “entertainment” not agendas of any sort…especially when most of the comments are from average guys…not elected officials who are the real ones backed by unions and corporations at “the table”.
      Remember what Agenda actually means :
      “a list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting”
      Maybe you are just discouraged since you never seem to have ANY suggestions or positive stories to share with the community of readers and thinkers on this site?

    • Pete: Great. That didn’t help much. I’ve thought about this a bit because of the same irritation you are expressing.

      The solutions are few.

      1.) Turn off all comments.
      2.) Spend my time engaged in constant censorship of comments.
      3.) Start blacklisting people.

      I don’t have time for #2. I’m reluctant to engage in #3, which is old-fashioned, heavy-handed newspaper style censorship.

      Which leaves #1 unless you see some third rail. One would hope that people who disagree with comments either a.) push back or b.) just stop reading comments.

      Both #2 and #3 seem too much like me deciding who gets to comment so that whatever gets written here comes to reflect my world view. I’m uncomfortable with that because,well, Patton:

      “If everyone is thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.”

      I do try to police the name calling when someone points it out. It is a problem way top common in our society today in general. Other than that, I’m open to any ideas.


      • Craig,
        There is a 4th suggestion…
        Make commentors use their real names…
        You may still have a few unsavory comments to shift through, but most of the Democrats this and Abortion that would end.
        I noticed Suzanne had the comments off on MRAK as ADN most often does on controversial stories.
        Although we disagree on much, I respect your openness to allow those who disagree with you to voice their educated opinions on these topics.
        Please think about the “real name approach” to debate…
        It is lost in Alaska these days.

  3. Reminds me of Jussie Smollett or when Hillary put “plants” at Trump rallies to start fights and instigate Conservatives in a negative light for the media. I say bullshit to this story.

    • Hi Bryan,
      What’s your justification for calling BS on this story? That you feel it puts conservatives in a negative light? How? It didn’t say anything about Pro or Con abortion folks except to say that BOTH sides were helpful to her after the incident. The only thing that the (alleged) perp said was ‘you’re going to hell’ – that could have easily been said by a pro or anti-abortion supporter. What about all of the witnesses? Are they part of the ‘story’ as well?
      As a conservative myself (who happens to support a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body in all situations, is agnostic and feels that the border wall is not our nations #1 priority), I don’t see how this altercation and news blog is pointing blame towards either side. Are you sure you’re not just projecting your fears of conservabashing?

      • Jack, as we have seen in the past, it generally turns out to be TDS with these types of events.

  4. The idea that people on a societal level are so wrapped up in their political colors that they will come to blows with each other is, to me, more disturbing than any particular incident. Take James H, talking about bitch slapping ‘leftist dweebs’ – what’s next? How ’bout this hypothetical situation? – I call your BS and invite you on up to Talkeetna for a ‘bitch slap’ session. Then, someone drops a comment about ‘defending’ themselves – no matter what. Next thing you know, you have 2 people at each others throats, potentially with weapons over online political comments. Seriously? In the land where freedom of speech and thought is LITERALLY the 1st right that our forefathers wrote into the Bill of Rights…?
    The polarization between the various tribes in America should disturb everyone. If you’re not a part of the solution (and I mean with civility – not with YOUR ‘solution’), than YOU are, quite literally, part of this polarization process. Call BS when you see it, just do it in a respectful manner. Let other people have their own opinions without demonizing them and shouting them down. Don’t let your friends get involved with this political divisiveness. If you want to see what happens when polarization and demonization of political opponents take over a society, look at any civil war waged throughout history – they are bloody, messy, shit-shows that literally destroy generations of people and wealth of societies. Our country is currently walking down this path…

    • Jack you have good point from a utopian angle . Keep in mind what civil/revolutionary wars were for and what they accomplished. Freedom and change . Would that freedom have come without war ? Maybe. Remember -blows , blood and suffering- polarization are what put our first amendment rights on the map . I’m completely against Hendrix angle / veiw of how to deal with the situation and more to your side but I recognize our forefathers fought literally for what they believe. War and Duels were commonplace even with first amendment rights. This is because with freedom and rights comes the responsibility to think / act /treat/ speak responsibly in a grown up fashion and suffer the consequences. It’s not just about tribes anymore. It’s about ideas . That’s what polarizes . Those in power would prefer no one got polarized and created a movement. The status qoa is more comfortable. So in a certain way of looking at things I’m thankful people still have the gusto to protest/ push for change . Without it we will be stagnant. If you aren’t moving forward there is potential to go backwards. Now I admit I admire the Swiss and their methods but they were not the ones who stormed the beaches of Normandy and rescued the French and Europe in general. Polarization has its place . It’s probably being misused in this era over domestic social issues.

      • Opinion,
        Just remember the civil war was not as much about slavery as it was aggravated by the growing divide among the common workers and the wealthy land barons.
        Historian Howard Zinn has detailed the events preceding the civil war very well in his book “A People’s History of the United States”.
        Zinn wrote:
        “In Philadelphia, working-class families lived fifty-five to a tenement, usually one room per family, with no garbage removal, no toilets, no fresh air or water. There was fresh water newly pumped from the Schuylkill River, but it was going to the homes of the rich.
        The farmers had fought, been crushed by the law, their struggle diverted into voting, and the system stabilized by enlarging the class of small landowners, leaving the basic structure of rich and poor intact. It was a common sequence in American history.”

      • Hi Opinion,
        Thanks for the comment(s)! I’m not trying to be utopian – I’m just trying to put some civility back into our communication. I think that it is just trollish to spout off with tough guy talk when you and I both know that 99% of the negative comments made online would NEVER be said face to face… because most people know that there are instant ramifications for saying the wrong shit to the wrong people face to face. I still say that change should come as part of civil discourse and not through violence on a societal scale. Our forefathers tried to make changes with decades of civil discourse before deciding to break away from our parent country – even then, they were reluctant warriors – not loudmouthed asses who trolled others who didn’t share their opinions. I know that there have been duels throughout history – I would call these the ramifications for perceived slights of honor and poor word choices for the most part. Civil wars, however, are what happens when intolerance and polarization happen on an extreme scale. Forget our horrible civil war – way too easy to muddy the waters with why it occurred. Look at ANY civil war during the past 200 years – French (multiple ones), Russia, China, Cambodia, Laos, any # of countries in Africa and I’m sure that I’m missing some big ones. In every case, people allowed themselves to become polarized to an extreme degree and quite literally destroyed their societies (along with a LARGE % of their populations and wealth) to prove that they were right. Seems a bit stupid to me – and I’m not afraid to fight – in fact, sometimes I’ve enjoyed going toe to toe with people a little too much. I’m an Army veteran, my brother is a retired Marine and my father served in the Marines in Vietnam – I get why we need to have a strong military and I’m no peacenik. I just feel that some people (especially people who have NOT seen 1st hand what happens in war or even a fist fight) like to drink a little too much and act tough at their Friends of the NRA meeting and talk about how their militia is so bad ass, etc. Those people are straight up assholes who are doing our country harm right now. And don’t get me wrong, I know that there are people on the left who are just as boisterous about becoming violent as well – they are also assholes… Alright, I’m stepping off the soapbox now… Time to go fishing!
        Cheers friend!

  5. Many journalists, other than Craig, like to slap the truth around. So it’s good they get slapped back occasionally. I’d like to slap Nat Herz #2, James Brooks. Leftist dweebs need a good bitch slap now and then.

    • James no one deserves mistreated regardless of their views . Those people have families mothers sisters daughters fathers. How could you say such a thing ? It makes us look no better than apes. As they say two sides to the same coin .

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