U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist says he was hit with crowd control munitions fired by federal agents while covering Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 21, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
July 21, 2020

Freelance journalist Griffin Malone said he was hit with crowd control munitions fired by federal agents while he was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of July 21, 2020.

Malone was covering 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. 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 wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23.

Demonstrations that began the night of July 20 stretched into the early hours of the next day, according to the Oregonian, as the “Wall of Moms” and other protesters confronted federal officers stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center downtown.

After dispersing protesters shortly after midnight and then retreating, federal agents emerged again around 2:30 a.m. to use crowd control munitions to disperse the smaller crowd that remained at the courthouse, according to the Oregonian.

Malone was hit by a ricocheting munition or piece of shrapnel while documenting federal agents clear the area outside of the Justice Center from across the street.

In a video Malone posted at 3:10 a.m., the camera goes askew about 16 seconds into the footage as he gets hit. “Feds pushed. One arrested, then I was shot in the foot. You can see the camera jump,” he tweeted.

Malone doesn’t believe that he was targeted for being press, he said, because he was moving at the time he was hit. “I don’t think I was targeted, I was just running,” Malone, who wears press identification, a yellow vest and a helmet marked “press” to identify himself while reporting, told the Tracker.

The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, said in a statement that officers used pepper balls and tear gas to respond to an “assault” against the courthouse and law enforcement officers by rioters. DHS didn’t respond to a request for comment on this incident.

The Portland police said in a statement that its officers weren’t present and didn’t engage with protesters that evening.

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