Tuck Woodstock was struck in the neck with what the independent journalist believes was shrapnel from a flash-bang grenade while covering a protest against police violence in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 5, 2020.
Woodstock was reporting from one of many protests that have broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following 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.
In Portland, nightly protests over Floyd’s death began on May 29, prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to declare a curfew that lasted three days. Even after the nightly curfew was lifted, journalists continued to be targeted by police, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon in June. Woodstock is a plaintiff in the suit, which resulted in a temporary restraining order and an agreement by the city of Portland in July to not arrest, harm or impede any journalists or legal observers.
Sept. 5 marked 100 straight days of protests in Portland. “It was wild for many reasons,” Woodstock told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, describing the events of the night.
A large group gathered in Southeast Portland’s Ventura Park, where organizers planned a march to Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct according to the Portland Mercury.
By the time people were gathering to walk, police were announcing that the march was unpermitted. Woodstock said protesters marched anyway and were met by a “riot line” of officers. Next, Woodstock said, someone in the crowd threw two Molotov cocktails. “I remember thinking this was a huge escalation,” Woodstock said.
Woodstock, who was wearing press identification and working from among a group of other journalists, tweeted just after 9:15 p.m. they were hit in the neck.
While Woodstock couldn’t say exactly who or what hit them, a bunch of flash-bang grenades were exploding nearby. The shrapnel “felt consistent with flash bangs.” The injury caused minor bleeding, and left a mark on their throat for months, Woodstock said. Woodstock tweeted a picture of the injury several days later. They didn’t seek medical attention.
“Everything was exploding everywhere...that’s what stood out, I hadn’t seen anything like that before,” Woodstock told the Tracker.
When reached for comment during ongoing protests in the fall of 2020, the PPB told the Tracker it wouldn’t comment on specific incidents, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case. Then in early 2021, PPB spokesman Derek Carmon said the department is committed to upholding civil rights for all citizens, including by requiring officers to report any use of force for review.