Independent videographer Nicholas Lee said police officers shoved him and shot him in the finger with a crowd control munition while he was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 2020.
The protest was one of many 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.
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 ACLU suit led to the city agreeing to a preliminary injunction in July to not arrest, harm or impede the work of journalists or legal observers of the protests.
Lee was covering a demonstration that began outside the Portland police union building in North Portland on the night of Aug. 8 and continued into the next morning. The police declared a riot shortly before midnight, after some demonstrators lit a fire inside the Portland Police Association headquarters.
Sometime around midnight, Lee was shoved to the ground by officers while he was on the sidewalk. “I'd been grabbed by the cops, shoved to the ground again because it seems they didn't want a brutal arrest filmed,” he wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted.
After a while, said Lee, law enforcement officers from the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police fired sting-ball grenades that drove protesters in the direction of Kenton Park. Once the protesters had gathered in the park, police officers continued to fire crowd control munitions, he said.
At around 12:25 a.m., Lee noticed a tear gas canister on the ground in the park and approached it, he said. “I remember hearing, ‘If you touch that, you’re going to get shot,’” Lee told the Tracker. Soon he felt a rubber bullet, fired by a PPB officer, hit the tip of his middle finger.
“It hit my finger, and there was blood everywhere,” he said. “Another photographer took me to the emergency room.”
The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.