A journalist with Full Revolution Media said he was hit with rubber bullets and pepper balls by Portland police officers while he was covering a protest on May 31, 2020, in downtown Portland, Oregon.
The demonstration was among the many that broke 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.
In Portland, protests over the death of Floyd began on May 29, prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to declare a daily 8 p.m. curfew that lasted three days.
On the night of May 31, protesters gathered near the Multnomah County Justice Center and marched toward Pioneer Courthouse despite the curfew, according to the Oregonian. Shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew took effect, the Portland police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and used tear gas and other crowd-control munitions to disperse the crowd.
John, the Full Revolution Media journalist, told the Tracker that around midnight he was near Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Alder Street, when a "few young males came sprinting around the corner." They were being chased by a police riot van, said John, who asked that his last name not be used out of safety concerns.
"Police dismounted and shot many rounds at [them]," he told the Tracker. "I took one step to the right to make sure the police knew I was there because I was behind a tree, and they shot me multiple times with pepper balls and rubber bullets."
John yelled at the officers, he said, asking why they shot him and asking for a supervisor, but they ignored him and drove away. He told the Tracker that pepper balls were shot right next to his camera. He didn’t have press markings and doesn’t remember if he mentioned being a member of the press, but believes he was targeted.
The rubber bullets split his elbow open and created swelling for several weeks, he said, adding that the pepper balls left small abrasions.
The Portland Police Bureau has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation. After the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a class-action lawsuit, the city agreed to a preliminary injunction in July to not to arrest or harm any journalists or legal observers of the protests or impede their work.