Two independent photojournalists said they were hit with crowd control munitions fired by federal law enforcement officers while they were covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on July 19, 2020.
Alex Milan Tracy was hit in the ankle and elbow, while John Rudoff said he was shot in the shoulder.
The journalists were covering one of the many protests that had broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
The Portland protests, held nightly since late May, had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased in early July. A temporary restraining order on July 2 that barred the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23. Both Tracy and Rudoff gave declarations in support of the class action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon, that led to the TRO.
Shortly before midnight on July 19, Tracy was documenting federal officers as they launched a “barrage of tear gas” at protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, according to his ACLU declaration.
“As I was taking video and photographing the chaos, a federal agent shot me in my left ankle joint with an impact munition round,” wrote Tracy, adding that he had been standing away from the protesters. “At the same time, I was consumed with tear gas and hit with pepper-balls on my right elbow.”
Tracy posted a video on Twitter capturing the moment he was hit. “I take a hit on my left ankle joint. Thanks to @SmileItsNathan and street medics for helping me out,” he tweeted, referencing fellow freelance photojournalist Nathan Howard.
Howard, who was also shot by pepper balls after midnight, posted a video of Tracy being treated by medics. “Journalist @AlexMilanTracy is hurt. Less lethal to leg. Medics with him now. He says he's ok,” he tweeted. Howard’s assault was documented by the Tracker here.
Around the same time, photojournalist John Rudoff was hit with a projectile while documenting federal agents emerging from the courthouse and shooting tear gas and munitions, he said in his declaration for the ACLU.
“Suddenly, and for no reason, a federal agent shot me in my right shoulder, inches from my head,” Rudoff wrote, adding that he believes he was hit with a 40mm rubber bullet. “The pain was so bad that I had to retreat into the park and stop documenting for around 15 minutes while I recovered.”
Rudoff said he felt targeted as press. “I have body armor that has ‘press’ on it in several-inch-high letters front and back, and a helmet that has ‘press’ on it in inch-high letters front and back,” he told the Tracker. “I intentionally stand away from crowds as best I can, and intentionally I’m dressed in light-colored clothing as much as possible.”
In the declaration, he also noted that he had two large professional cameras with him and was wearing a National Press Photographers Association press pass.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request 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.