U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist maced, shoved by federal agents during Portland protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 26, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
July 26, 2020

Independent journalist Garrison Davis said he was maced and shot with rubber bullets fired by federal agents, then later shoved by Portland police officers while he was covering protests in Portland, Oregon, in the early morning hours of July 26, 2020.

Davis was one of the many covering protests that broke out in Portland 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 was expanded to include federal agents on July 23.

One of the main demonstrations taking place the night of July 25 — and stretching into the next morning — was held outside the Mark O. Hetfield federal courthouse, where federal law enforcement officers were stationed.

Around 2 a.m., Davis was documenting a line of officers advancing down the street from the courthouse when he was hit with a chemical irritant, which he identified as mace, by a federal agent. Video published by Davis on Twitter shows officers walking down a street near the federal courthouse. Then one officer raises his hand and fires the irritant spray directly at Davis.

A few minutes later, Davis was shot by a rubber bullet that he believes was fired by a federal agent. “I got shot with a rubber bullet, I’m standing in a crowd of just other press people,” he tweeted.

About a half an hour later, Davis was pushed to the ground by a PPB officer. Posting blurry footage of the incident on Twitter, he wrote, “Footage doesn’t look great cause my camera is still covered in mace at this point.”

“I’m on the sidewalk here. I’m not even on the street. And they still walk up and totally knock me over for no reason,” Davis told the Tracker. “Then when I try to get up, they continued to shove me.”

The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.

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