Federal agents shoot independent videographer three separate times with crowd-control munitions, damage camera

October 29, 2020

Independent journalist Mason Lake said he was shot three separate times with crowd-control munitions by federal law enforcement officers while he was covering a protest outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of Oct. 29, 2020. The pepper balls also damaged his video camera, he said.

Lake, a videographer, was covering one of the many Portland protests against law enforcement violence that first erupted after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, 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.

Law enforcement officers in Portland have targeted journalists since the outbreak of the demonstrations, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The case resulted in a temporary restraining order on July 2 barring the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists, which was expanded to include federal agents later that month.

The protest began late on Oct. 28, as demonstrators rallied at Elizabeth Carruthers Park, in the South Waterfront district of Portland, and stretched past midnight. The protesters marched several blocks south to the ICE building, chanting against the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including the separation of children from parents that took place from 2017 to 2018 and the lack of progress in reuniting all of the families.

When demonstrators arrived outside the ICE building shortly before midnight, federal officers warned them they were trespassing and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, according to the local news station KOIN.

Lake, who was marked as press on a helmet and a vest and carried his press identification with him, was shot three separate times with crowd-control munitions after midnight and caught them all on video that he later posted on YouTube. He said he believes he was targeted by the federal agents because he was filming them.

In the first incident, at around 1:27 a.m., Lake captured federal officers advancing down the street in a cloud of tear gas and shooting crowd-control munitions. At about seven seconds in, Lake is heard cursing after being shot with what he believes were pepper balls.

“I was shot in the back of my thigh when we were backing up from the line they were pushing us from,” Lake told the Tracker. “It also hit my back.”

In the second incident, at around 1:34 a.m., Lake approached a tear gas canister on the ground, and was then fired at. He responded by cursing at the federal agents.

“They shot me in the chest with the pepper rounds, and then my camera got hit with a pepper round, got hit with a pellet, and then another pepper round. And the mic itself got hit with a pepper round,” Lake told the Tracker.

His Canon EOS 6D Mark II camera was damaged, with the audio connection and hot shoe needing cleaning and maintenance. The mic also needed work after being hit with a pepper ball.

“I had to send in the camera for work. The camera took some damage, though thankfully not too much,” he said.

In the third incident, at 1:58 a.m., Lake is hit with crowd-control munitions as he walks towards federal officers stationed outside the ICE facility. At about six seconds in, Lake can be heard yelling that he was shot in the face. He then turns his camera to show where a mark was left on his helmet.

Lake told the Tracker it was a pepper round that hit him that time as well.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incidents.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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