Jasper Florence was struck in the head with a projectile fired by federal agents while the independent journalist was documenting the protests in Portland, Oregon, on July 24, 2020, despite a fresh court order barring federal agents in the city from harming members of the press covering protests.
Portland had been experiencing daily protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
The presence of federal law enforcement in Portland in July intensified the city's regular protests and the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland became a nightly flashpoint. A temporary restraining order from July 2 that barred Portland police from harming or impeding journalists was expanded to include federal agents on July 23. Despite the expansion of the temporary restraining order, the following day numerous journalists were hit with crowd-control munitions in the vicinity of the federal courthouse as protesters again gathered there. Some said they believed they were targeted.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment. In its “Portland Riots Read-out” DHS said one federal officer was injured during the protest, which began the night of July 23 and went through the morning of July 24.
“No injuries to protestors or rioters have been reported” the statement added. It didn’t mention any injuries to journalists, despite reports some reporters were hurt.
“I have just been shot in the head,” Florence tweeted at 12:33 a.m.
Florence said they were on their phone writing a tweet when they were hit.
“It was just sort of like a blunt force impact and then just powder everywhere,” said Florence, who described the projectile as larger than a pepper ball, a munition frequently used by law enforcement across the country that Florence has been hit with before.
Florence was wearing a helmet, but said they believed they had suffered a concussion, experiencing brain fog, difficulty thinking and migraines in the following days. The helmet was marked as “press” as was a paintball vest they were wearing that night. Florence said they believed the press markings were visible to federal agents and that the incident was targeted.
Florence said later that night they were struck with what they believe was a tear gas canister in the knee, which destroyed a plastic motorcycle knee guard they were wearing. Florence said the knee remained sore for the following days but wasn’t seriously injured.