Andy Ngo, who identifies as an independent journalist and photographer, says he was sprayed with bear repellent and assaulted while recording during a May Day protest and its aftermath in Portland, Oregon.
Ngo, who primarily publishes his videos on Twitter and YouTube, says he was documenting rising tensions between members of antifa, who had scheduled a gathering at local bar Cider Riot, and members of far-right groups, including Patriot Prayer, who arrived at the bar seemingly to confront antifa members.
When he arrived in front of the bar at approximately 7:30 p.m., Ngo told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that members of antifa who had covered their faces with bandanas and masks started shouting, “Camera! Camera!” Ngo said that the antifa protesters were familiar with him and his work, as he has been covering antifa critically since November 2016.
While standing outside, Ngo said he was approached by a woman from the antifa side who said that she had applied for a job at his mother’s flower shop and a man who recited the shop’s address, which Ngo said felt like a pointed threat.
Patriot Prayer members arrived at the bar shortly after.
“[The two groups] were standing at the bar and across the street yelling at each other and eventually it did become physical,” Ngo said. “There was a brawl that involved what looked like pepper spray, mace and bear mace being sprayed, back-and-forth objects being thrown—glasses, bottles—and things were hitting cars and breaking on the ground.”
About 10 minutes after he arrived, Ngo said he noticed that the interaction was becoming very hostile and decided to move a bit further back.
“I stood behind a van that was on the street and peaked around the corner with my camera,” Ngo told the Tracker. “And then a masked individual ran from the property of the bar and sprayed the chemical directly in my face.”
In his video of the incident, a woman wearing sunglasses and a bandana covering her face can be seen coming from the opposite side of the van spraying what appears to be bear spray at members of Patriot Prayer before turning and spraying Ngo directly.
Ngo told the Tracker that the chemical burned his skin and eyes, and he had to be led across the street by a woman nearby to sit down. “I could still hear the fight and it sounded like it was getting closer and closer to me,” Ngo said. “The people around me said, ‘You’ve got to go, you’ve got to go now.’” Struggling to open his eyes, Ngo said he went to the nearest establishment, a wine bar, to use their restroom to wash what was left of the spray.
At approximately 8:20 p.m., he called the police non-emergency line to report the incident. Ngo said the operator informed him that all available officers were currently engaged in policing the riot, and that no one would be available to take his statement for several hours. Ngo returned home, and just after 11 p.m. an officer came by to take his statement.
This was not the only incident Ngo reported to the police that day: He told the Tracker that he was punched while he was covering a protest earlier on that day, which he reported to officers at the scene. Ngo told the Tracker that protesters had recognized him when he arrived at a publicly announced protest just after noon.
“Immediately, they were hostile to me, although I’ve come to expect that,” Ngo said. “The ones that knew me flipped me off and cursed at me. The ones who didn’t know me went up to me and said, ‘I don’t give you permission to record me.’ I didn’t respond to that: it was in a public park.”
At approximately 2:20 p.m. a man with his face covered and wearing sunglasses approached Ngo and sprayed his camera with silly string. An Oregonian reporter stepped between them, admonishing the man and prevented him from spraying Ngo or his gear further.
It was shortly after, as the protesters’ march stopped in front of Portland’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at around 2:45 p.m., that Ngo says an antifa protester punched him in the stomach.
In an email, a Portland Police Bureau public information officer said that the investigations into the two assaults reported by Ngo are ongoing and therefore the bureau cannot provide comment or details.
— The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content originally appeared on U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents and was authored by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents.