Freelance journalist Sergio Olmos said he 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 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.
Olmos said he was struck in the leg with what he described as “some kind of flash bang” while filming the protest at the federal courthouse.
In a video Olmos uploaded to Twitter at 1:13 a.m., sparks can be seen flying above the journalist before a canister tumbles in front of him and a bang is heard.
“Some kind of flash bang goes off on my legs, it hurt enough that I had to walk off for a bit, but didn’t burn through my Sambas. I’m good,” he wrote on Twitter.
Later, after he left downtown Portland, Olmos shared a picture of small blood spots on the back of his leg writing: “must have burned through my pants.”
Olmos didn’t respond to requests for comment.