U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shot with crowd-control munitions at Portland, Oregon, protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 12, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

Police at a June 2020 protest in Portland, Oregon, after the murder of George Floyd; journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis says police shot her with a foam baton at a protest there that month.

June 12, 2020

Independent journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis was shot by police officers in Portland, Oregon, with a foam baton round — a crowd-control munition similar to a rubber bullet — while documenting a Black Lives Matter protest on June 12, 2020.

The protest was one of the many that broke out across the U.S. that year in response to police violence and in support of the BLM movement following the murder of George Floyd. As the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented, an unprecedented number of journalists were assaulted and arrested at these protests, including in Oregon, where the ACLU later filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of journalists and legal observers who were targeted and attacked by police.

Lewis joined a separate civil suit on Nov. 1, 2020, charging that the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and various law enforcement officials violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities during BLM protests that year.

Lewis and three other Oregonians with disabilities who either documented or participated in the protests accused law enforcement of assaulting them multiple times and of generally acting without regard for their disabilities. Lewis has photosensitive epilepsy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that increases the risk of injury and makes it difficult for her to move quickly.

In the complaint, Lewis describes standing in a crowd near the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland at the June 12 protest. As protesters shook the fence around the building, the complaint says Portland Police Bureau officers shot Lewis in the leg with the foam baton from less than three feet away, although she had her hands raised and was not touching the fence.

Lewis said she felt severe pain after the blow, a reaction linked to her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with an injury to a leg muscle, the complaint says. She continued to experience pain afterward, could not put weight on her leg and was forced to use crutches for two weeks, and, later, a cane.

In October 2021, the court approved a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims in the lawsuit, ruling that they had failed to prove that the city customarily violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities when responding to protests. The plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint, which did not include Lewis.

Lewis told the Tracker that she ultimately withdrew from the suit because of issues with her legal representation.

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