Independent journalist Jasper Florence said they were hit with crowd-control munitions fired by federal agents while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of July 28, 2020.
Florence was 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 was expanded to include federal agents on July 23. Conley is a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon.
On the evening of July 27, protesters gathered at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown, a nightly flashpoint for confrontations between protesters and federal agents, and demonstrated into the early hours of the morning of the next day.
Florence was struck in the early morning of July 28 while covering the demonstration in front of the federal courthouse. With protesters gathered at least 40 feet behind them, Florence was hit with a less-lethal munition while standing on the sidewalk in front of federal agents, they told the Tracker. Florence was hit near the hip, below their protective paintball vest, by what they believe was a baton round.
Florence had trouble getting around “for days” after getting hit and that the pain made them stop covering protests that night, they said, but didn’t have the injury examined by a medical professional due to financial circumstances.
Florence was wearing a three-by-eight-inch “press” badge on their paintball vest as well as a helmet marked “press” in bright white letters, they said, adding that a press ID card was also visible.
“It was absolutely targeted both personally and as press,” Florence said. “I was very clearly marked with large lettering, so I feel like it’s kind of hard to miss.”
Florence was also struck with pepper balls, which caused irritation, but the vest provided some protection from the impact.
Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the U.S. Marshals Service, which both have had federal agents in Portland, responded to requests for comment.