U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist hit with projectiles while covering Portland protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 20, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
July 20, 2020

Portland-based journalist Lesley McLam said she was hit with crowd-control munitions by federal law enforcement officers while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, during the early morning hours of July 20, 2020.

Lesley McLam, co-host of a KBOO podcast who also works with news site Village Portland, said federal agents threw tear gas canisters toward her and her co-host, Cory Elia. McLam said she was clearly identifiable as a member of the press.

The Portland-based journalists were filming 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, a Black man. A viral video showed a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck during an arrest in Minneapolis. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The Portland protests, held nightly since late May, had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased in early July.

At around 4:40 a.m., Elia and McLam were filming protesters near Southwest Salmon Street and Southwest Third Avenue downtown when several canisters landed near them, McLam told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. A livestream McLam posted on Twitter shows a standoff between protesters and federal agents.

McLam can be heard yelling out in the livestream that she is a member of the press who is exercising her constitutional rights in documenting the protest.

McLam, who wore press badges and marked herself as “press” on her clothing, said she was targeted despite yelling out at the officers that she was a journalist. Elia’s assault is documented by the Tracker here.

While a number of federal agencies had officers in Portland in July, McLam said she believes Border Patrol agents were present at the demonstration she covered because of the uniform patches she photographed. The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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.

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