U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Investigative reporter hit by munition while covering Portland protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 7, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon
Case number
3:20-cv-01142
Case Status
Ongoing
Type of case
Civil

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
June 7, 2020

Robert Evans, a reporter for investigative news site Bellingcat and host of a podcast for iHeartMedia, was hit by a crowd-control munition while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, during the early hours of June 6, 2020, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by ACLU of Oregon.

Protests in the city that day were in response to a video showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the United States since the end of May.

In Portland, nightly protests over the death of Floyd began on May 29, prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to declare an 8 p.m. curfew that lasted three days. Even after the curfew was lifted, journalists continued to be targeted by police, according to the ACLU suit. The suit led to an agreement by the Portland Police Bureau in July not to arrest or harm any journalists or legal observers of the protests. Wheeler later banned the police from using tear gas as a form of crowd control on Sept. 10.

Evans, who was livestreaming the protest, was filming the police clearing Chapman Square when he was hit in the fingers by an impact munition. At about 48 minutes and 40 seconds into the video, Evans can be heard exclaiming after being hit.

“They got me real good in the fucking fingers,” Evans can be heard saying, speculating that the munition might be made of glass. “They were shooting at my chest though, because my hand was on my chest.”

“I think maybe even aiming at my press pass, because my hand was right next to it,” he added. The ACLU complaint notes that Evans was hit in the hand that was holding his press pass, and that his helmet also said “press.”

Evans told the Tracker that his fingers were bruised and hurt for a few days. “That one wasn’t serious,” he says, but it was memorable for how targeted he felt.

The ACLU filed the complaint on June 28 on behalf of multiple journalists. Evans and his colleague Bea Lake filed their own civil lawsuit against the City of Portland on July 14.

The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing the ongoing litigation.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect that Robert Evans is not a plaintiff in the ACLU of Oregon suit, but has independently sued the City of Portland.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]