Journalist’s hand broken by assailant at ‘Back the Blue’ rally

August 22, 2020

An unidentified man attacked Bellingcat journalist Robert Evans with a baton, breaking bones in his hand, Evans said, as the journalist was covering demonstrations 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 counter-protesters, including Black Lives Matter activists, amassed in opposition.

Evans, a reporter for investigative news site Bellingcat and host of a podcast for iHeartMedia, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that shortly after 1 p.m. he saw a fight break out as he was reporting on the protests outside the Justice Center.

Video he posted on Twitter shows that as Evans nears the skirmish, a man in a gray baseball hat and orange-tinted sunglasses turns around and hits his baton downward at Evans’s hand, knocking his phone to the ground.

Evans told the Tracker that he had an open fracture, meaning the blow broke the skin on his hand.

In a second video Evans posted, he approaches the man, who is now holding a blue sign that says “God Bless America.” Evans tells him, “you just assaulted a press guy.”

Journalist Garrison Davis posted another video of Evans, blood dripping from his finger, speaking to the man. Evans’s words are indistinct, but his assailant repeats “move back.” When Evans continues to speak, the man uses his sign to slam the journalist in the chest and head.

Evans, who was wearing a helmet and a protective vest that were both marked with the word PRESS, said he believes he was targeted because he was filming the clashes.

“I made very certain that he knew what he had done and that he knew who he had assaulted,” Evans said.

Evans said a medic who was helping protesters dressed his wound with a bandage and splint on site, and he continued to cover the protest for several hours. He later went to a hospital emergency room for treatment. He told the Tracker his hand was broken in two places.

Evans said his Samsung Galaxy phone screen was cracked and the charging port broken when he was attacked. He was able to continue using it to report for the rest of the day, but later needed to replace it.

Portland Police Bureau did not respond to emailed questions about the attack on Evans. A spokesperson for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said they had no record of a case related to the incident.

Evans told the Tracker in February 2021 that he planned to take legal action against his attacker but had not yet done so. He noted that police had not made any arrests related to the attack.

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. 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]

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