Independent journalist and livestreamer Rosa Watts said she was struck by crowd-control munitions fired by federal law enforcement officers during a protest 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 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.
Watts said she was struck with a projectile fired by federal agents as she filmed through the federal courthouse’s protective fence in the early morning of July 24.
In a video captured by freelance journalist Matthieu Lewis-Rolland, Watts can be seen standing next to the fence wearing a helmet and jacket marked “press” in large letters. A projectile flies toward her from the left, appearing to hit her in the chest before she falls backward onto the ground.
Watts replied to the video by saying it was her in the footage. She didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Tracker.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.