U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Freelance journalist says federal agents fired tear gas and smoke, then shoved her, during Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 18, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
September 18, 2020

Freelance journalist Laura Jedeed said federal law enforcement officers fired tear gas and smoke towards her, and then shoved her, while she was covering a protest outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 18, 2020.

Jedeed, a contributor to Portland Monthly and Willamette Weekly, was covering one of the many Portland protests in response to 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 Sept. 18 demonstration began in the evening, as demonstrators marched several blocks south from Elizabeth Caruthers Park in the South Waterfront district to the ICE building, and stretched past midnight. The demonstration came after a whistleblower alleged that ICE was medically neglecting detainees at a private detention center in Georgia and overseeing hysterectomies on detained women. Demonstrators also chanted against the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from parents, in place from 2017 to 2018, and the lack of progress in reuniting all of the families.

Jedeed was documenting the scene as federal agents dispersed the crowd to the north after protesters started pushing at the gates of the ICE building. Then the Portland police joined in the enforcement effort and declared the protest an “unlawful assembly,” according to local news outlet KOIN. Eleven people were arrested by the police on a range of charges, and law enforcement officers fired crowd-control munitions at the crowd to drive them away from the ICE building.

A video published by Jedeed on Twitter at 10:37 p.m. shows tear gas enveloping a street where protesters were retreating. After her camera pans to capture law enforcement officers standing on a street, a munition bounces close to her, and green smoke comes out.

“It landed right near me, and it was a plume of green smoke. It made it impossible to film, and there was only press there,” Jedeed told the Tracker, adding that believes federal officers targeted her to stop her from filming.

Earlier in September, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had banned the Portland Police Bureau from using tear gas for crowd control, and he tweeted the day after the protest that the police had abided by his order. Federal agents, however, have continued to deploy tear gas during Portland protests.

After pulling back to the ICE facility, law enforcement officers again rushed the crowd and made an aggressive arrest around midnight. Jedeed was pushed to the ground during the rush, she told the Tracker, adding that believes a federal law enforcement officer shoved her.

Footage published by Jedeed on Twitter shortly after shows a group of officers running down a street near the ICE facility. About nine seconds in, the camera points downward and then shuts off as she is pushed. “I get shoved and skid along the asphalt,” wrote Jedeed in a post accompanying the video.

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]