Journalist Fiorella Isabel Mayorca said she was caught in a cloud of tear gas and had guns pointed at her by law enforcement officers as she covered protests with her colleague in Portland, Oregon, on July 21, 2020. She also said officers smashed the windows of a van they were using.
Mayorca, the co-owner of The Convo Couch, a Los Angeles-based video news outlet, said she arrived in Portland two days earlier to cover protests that had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased.
Demonstrations against police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been held across the U.S. since late May. They were sparked by a video showing the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Mayorca told the U.S Press Freedom Tracker she arrived at a demonstration at around 9:30 p.m. on July 20 outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown, where federal law enforcement officers were stationed.
Mayorca and Craig Jardula, another co-owner of The Convo Couch, streamed live on YouTube for several hours, documenting the demonstration and interviewing protesters. They said that a little after midnight, they returned to a van parked nearby that they had been using as a media station and spot to rest and regroup. Dubbed the “Bernie Van,” it was owned by progressive activist David Crow and had been used as he independently campaigned for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during the recent Democratic primary. It was adorned with progressive slogans, including “Defund the Police.”
While inside the van at approximately 12:30 a.m., they saw what they believed were federal law enforcement officers in riot gear come out of the courthouse and start to throw tear gas canisters on the ground to push protesters back, Mayorca said.
Mayorca continued to film the scene when she said an officer saw them and alerted other agents to the van. Video shows an officer pointing a gun at the van before a group of officers approach, shine flashlights on them and hit the windows until they shatter.
Mayorca said the officers told them to “Get the fuck out."
“They pointed guns at us,” she said. “It made me feel like they were the enemy, when they’re supposed to be putting in order, so to speak.”
The Tracker documented Jardula’s assault here.
While a number of federal agencies reportedly had officers in Portland in July, it wasn’t clear to Mayorca which agency the officers they encountered were from. The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, did not respond to requests for comment.
After the van’s windows were smashed, Mayorca said they left the vehicle and shouted to the officers that they were members of the press.
“They did let us walk out, and we were able to get safely out of there,” Mayorca said.
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.