U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist hit in leg with crowd-control munition at Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 27, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
July 27, 2020

Justin Yau, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Daily Mail and The New York Times, said he was hit in the right leg with a marker round fired by federal officers while he was covering protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, during the early hours of July 27, 2020.

Yau was covering one of the many demonstrations that have broken out in response to police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 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.

On the night of July 26, demonstrators gathered in the area around the Multnomah County Justice Center and the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, where clashes with the Portland police and federal officers escalated into the next morning, according to local news outlet KGW8. Federal officers declared an “unlawful assembly” at 12:16 a.m., according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

Sometime after midnight, Yau was documenting the protests around the northwestern corner of Lownsdale Square, which is near the courthouse, when federal officers fired impact munitions through the smoke, he told the Tracker. A FN303 marker round bruised him in the right leg, he said, adding that it “bent some of my keys in my pocket at the time.”

Officers also fired a tear gas canister at a light fixture near him, said Yau, adding that it “shattered glass on top of us.” In a video posted to Youtube, the canister can be seen hitting at about 50 seconds in, causing Yau to duck. He was wearing a bright yellow vest with “press” labeled across the front and a black helmet with similar markings, he said.

DHS, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, said in a statement about the night’s enforcement actions that officers used crowd control tactics to respond to “attacks” against the courthouse and law enforcement officers by demonstrators. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incidents.

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