Rach Wilde was one of multiple journalists who said federal law enforcement officers targeted them with crowd-control weapons while they were covering protests in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of July 21, 2020.
The journalists were covering one of the many protests that broke out 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.
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 wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23.
Demonstrations that began the night of July 20 stretched into the early hours of the next day, according to the Oregonian, as the “Wall of Moms” and other protesters confronted federal officers stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center downtown.
Around 12:30 a.m., as protesters tried to pry protective plywood off the courthouse, federal agents emerged from the building to confront the crowd.
Around the same time, Wilde was covering events across the street from the Justice Center when federal officers rushed the crowd and targeted her with baton rounds and pepper balls, she told the Tracker.
“We were filming this rush, and they were shooting whoever and whenever they wanted,” she said. Wilde had been filming officers who were “aggressively either detaining or arresting” a protester when “one of them looked straight at me, pointed his weapon at my body and hit my ankle with a baton round.” She wore press identification issued by Black Zebra Production, an independent media organization, around her neck.
“They continued to shoot at me [with pepper balls] as I was literally hopping away,” Wilde told the Tracker. “I had little marks on my backpack from when they shot at me.”
Wilde, who had previous experience as a street medic, said she regrouped behind a car and continued to document throughout the night.
Afterwards, Wilde went to the hospital for an X-ray and learned that she had a “very deep bone bruise and possible hairline fracture.” She said she is unable to walk for prolonged periods of time and feels like she is “spraining it all over again” if her ankle is hit a certain way. She said she plans to return to the hospital for another X-ray soon.
DHS, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, said in a statement that officers used pepper balls and tear gas to respond to an “assault” against the courthouse and law enforcement officers by rioters. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incidents.
The Portland police said in a statement that its officers weren’t present and didn’t engage with protesters that evening.