Freelance journalist Laura Jedeed said she was hit by pepper balls fired by federal law enforcement while they were covering protests in Portland, Oregon, in the early morning hours of July 26, 2020.
Jedeed was one of many covering protests that broke out in Portland in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
The Portland protests, held nightly since late May, had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased in early July. A temporary restraining order on July 2 that barred the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists was expanded to include federal agents on July 23.
One of the main demonstrations taking place the night of July 25 — and stretching into the next morning — was held outside the Mark O. Hetfield federal courthouse, where federal law enforcement officers were stationed.
Jedeed, who contributes to Willamette Weekly and Portland Monthly, was also covering protesters outside the federal courthouse. Wearing a neon yellow vest with the words “press” on it, she was filming protesters at the front line, who tried to form a “shield wall” with umbrellas to block federal law enforcement officers from firing on the rest of the crowd.
A little after 1:10 a.m., Jedeed was hit by crowd control munitions in the leg and the wrist, she said. Jedeed had been holding her phone in that hand, and she later tweeted a photo of the swollen wrist.
“I believe they targeted me,” Jedeed told the Tracker. “They hit me in the face with pepper balls. The pepper got through [my] goggles, and I was effectively blind. I stumbled back into the park [near the courthouse], and somebody had to help me. I was completely incapacitated.”
Jedeed then yelled for a medic, who flushed her eyes out with milk to mitigate the effects of the pepper balls.
“I looked at my wrist and realized something was very wrong [because it swelled up],” she said. “I tried to power through for another half hour, but the adrenaline wore off and I had to leave.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.