U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist targeted with paintballs while covering clashing protests in Portland

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 22, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 22, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Sergio Olmos wrote that he was hit with paintballs fired by a right-wing activist while they were covering confrontations between protesters in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 22, 2020.

Clashes erupted after more than 100 far-right protesters, including members of the extremist group the Proud Boys and supporters of then-President Donald Trump, gathered outside the Justice Center for a “Back the Blue” rally on Aug. 22, the Washington Post reported.

Hundreds of counterprotesters amassed in opposition. Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement had been held in Portland daily for months, sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Olmos posted on Twitter at 6:32 p.m. that while he was being shot with a paintball by a right-wing protester he pointed to his press pass, but the man continued to shoot paintballs.

In a video Olmos posted with his tweet, a man wearing a black helmet can be seen firing a paintball gun into the crowd amid clashes between far-right groups and opposing protesters. At one point in the video, several paintballs can be seen flying past Olmos’s camera as he films.

Olmos did not respond to requests for comment.

In September, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office filed multiple assault charges against a man, who was arrested for allegedly attacking people with paintballs and mace at two protests, including the one on Aug. 22. The indictment against Alan Swinney alleges that on Aug. 22 he used a paintball gun to cause physical injury, pointed a revolver at a person and unlawfully discharged “mace or a similar substance” toward another person. The charges do not name any of the alleged targets.

In October, a judge denied a motion for Swinney’s release, and as of March 2021, he was still being held in prison, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department. Swinney's lawyer, Eric Wolfe, did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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