Multiple journalists were struck by crowd-control munitions fired by federal law enforcement officers during a protest in Portland, Oregon on July 24, 2020, despite a fresh court order barring federal agents in the city from harming members of the press covering protests.
Portland had been experiencing daily protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
The presence of federal law enforcement in Portland in July intensified the city's regular protests and the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland became a nightly flashpoint. A temporary restraining order from July 2 that barred Portland police from harming or impeding journalists was expanded to include federal agents on July 23. Despite the expansion of the temporary restraining order, the following day numerous journalists were hit with crowd control munitions in the vicinity of the federal courthouse as protesters again gathered there. Some said they believed they were targeted.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment. In its “Portland Riots Read-out” DHS said one federal officer was injured during the protest, which began the night of July 23 and went through the morning of July 24.
“No injuries to protestors or rioters have been reported” the statement added. It didn’t mention any injuries to journalists, despite reports some reporters were hurt.
KATU ABC 2 photojournalist Ric Peavyhouse was filming federal agents though a protective fence around the federal courthouse when he was “hit by something that felt like buckshot,” he wrote on Twitter at 1 a.m. alongside a video he uploaded of the incident.
In Peavyhouse’s video, protesters can be heard taunting federal agents on the other side of the fence before the camera jerks sharply and Peavyhouse retreats.
At 2:15 a.m., Peavyhouse tweeted a photograph of a hospital wristband and wrote “not how you want a protest to end.” He replied to a comment saying he had something “stuck in his eye.”
In a tweet that afternoon Peaveyhouse wrote: “My best guess for what hit me in the eye last night was pepperball shrapnel shot at head level. Going frame-by-frame, it looks like officers shooting from the steps hit the officer in front of me and then I went down. I felt similar debris/shrapnel the other night. #pdxprotest”
Neither Peavyhouse nor a news director at KATU ABC 2 responded to requests for comment.
Livestreamer Rosa Watts was struck with a projectile fired by federal agents as she filmed through the federal courthouse’s protective fence in the early morning of July 24.
In a video captured by freelance journalist Matthieu Lewis-Rolland, Watts can be seen standing next to the fence wearing a helmet and jacket marked “press” in large letters. A projectile flies toward her from the left, appearing to hit her in the chest before she falls backward onto the ground.
Watts replied to the video by saying it was her in the footage. She didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Tracker.
Freelance journalist Sergio Olmos was struck in the leg with what he described as “some kind of flash bang” while filming the protest at the federal courthouse.
In a video Olmos uploaded to Twitter at 1:13 a.m., sparks can be seen flying above the journalist before a canister tumbles in front of Olmos and a bang is heard.
“Some kind of flash bang goes off on my legs, it hurt enough that I had to walk off for a bit, but didn’t burn through my Sambas. I’m good,” he wrote on Twitter.
Later, after he left downtown Portland, Olmos shared a picture of small blood spots on the back of his leg writing: “must have burned through my pants.”
Olmos didn’t respond to requests for comment.
This content originally appeared on U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents and was authored by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents.