Independent journalist James Croxton, managing editor of Oregon-based website DoubleSidedMedia, said his life was threatened as he covered an anti-vaccine rally in Springfield, Oregon, on June 23, 2021.
He said he was in the plaza in front of Springfield Library around 4 p.m. to cover the event, which was also advertised as a protest against mask-wearing to combat COVID-19, and against critical race theory. Croxton said there were around 40 protesters at the rally.
“Many of them held signs about keeping critical race theory out of schools and mask mandates,” he wrote in a post for Left Coast Right Watch, a California-based website.
Two men approached Croxton and asked him who he worked for. Croxton wrote in the post that when he replied ”‘Double Sided Media” they muttered “fake press.” He said he was later circled by two protesters, one carrying a large pole. He wrote that the one carrying the flagpole was “notorious” for beating people with it.
He added that a man walked toward him and told him it would be wise if he walked away.
“Knowing I was largely outnumbered and the only member of the press there by this point, I agreed and stated, ‘Sure, I’ll walk away. No problem’,” Croxton wrote.
Two of the men then followed Croxton down the road, he said, and one said: “If you ever come back, it’ll be the last thing you do.”
“I was physically scared for myself. I thought I was about to be ambushed as two grown men—one with a large flagpole as normal—circled me like predatory vultures,” Croxton tweeted after the incident.
“In retrospect, I think this was the most dangerous situation I have found myself in so far. I say this because I was entirely alone and with a bunch of people who still think that 'the press is the enemy of the people,'” Croxton wrote.
Croxton told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he had feared for his life.
“I felt scared due to the fact that I was all alone knowing that if anything happened, nobody was there to either document it or help me.”
He said he hadn’t filed a complaint to the police.