Independent social media journalist Teebs Auberdine said she was hit with a projectile and pushed into a cactus by law enforcement officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of Aug. 9, 2020.
Demonstrations had been held in Portland on almost a nightly basis since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering BLM 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 in July barring the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists.
Late in the evening of Aug. 8, police declared a riot in North Portland after a small group of protesters broke into the Portland Police Association, the union that represents city police officers, and set a small fire on the floor of the office, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police dispersed the demonstration from that area, though protests continued in the early hours of the morning in Kenton Park, about a half mile north.
Auberdine, who livestreams video of protests on her social media channels, said she was covering the protest in Kenton Park when she was hit with a metal projectile. While standing under a tree for shelter, she was struck in the arm with what she believes was a 40mm puck round fired by a PPB officer, she told the Tracker. The projectile ricocheted off of the tree and hit her from above, she said, adding that it didn’t cause her any injury.
Auberdine said other journalists were also standing near the tree at the time she was struck. She said she didn’t know whether the police had intended the projectile to hit anyone.
About 20 minutes later, she said, she was reporting near the front of a protest in the Kenton neighborhood, a few blocks from the park. Because of where she was standing, she said it was hard to move out of the way. Then a state trooper cross-checked her into a planter box in front of a restaurant or bar, she said. She broke her fall with her left arm by grabbing onto the side of the box. As she did, she said, the needles of a cactus stabbed through her sweater and into her arm.
She said she pulled most of the needles out a short time later when the confrontation calmed down, but she wasn’t able to remove all of them until she went home.
Auberdine wore a black bullet resistant vest with the word “press” on the front and back in large white letters, she said, and also carried recording equipment, including a microphone.
“While I bet they would have shoved anyone in arms reach into that planter box, they 100 percent knew what they were doing,” Auberdine told the Tracker.
In response to an email inquiry, a spokesperson for the OSP didn’t specifically address the incident, but said that concerns about excessive use of force could be reported to the state police Office of Professional Standards.
When reached by email, PPB spokesperson Greg Pashley told the Tracker that he didn’t have any information to release about the incident.