OPB reporter struck in hand with projectile while covering Portland protest

July 24, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Rebecca Ellis was one of at least eight journalists 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.

Ellis was struck with a projectile fired by federal agents as she filmed them advancing at the intersection of Southwest Main Street and Southwest Third Avenue next to the federal courthouse.

A video posted to Twitter by Ellis at 1:27 a.m. shows federal agents firing several projectiles that appear to be tear-gas canisters as they advance down Southwest Main. The video shakes and Ellis can be heard exclaiming “ow!” as one of the projectiles strikes her in the hand.

“Feds approaching and just got shot in hand trying to film. Don’t think that TRO worked,” she wrote on Twitter alongside the video, referencing the temporary restraining order.

She told the Tracker she was wearing a lanyard with press credentials and was standing alongside other journalists in front of a huge crowd of protesters behind her. She believes police were attempting to fire at protesters.

She said the projectile left “a little mark for a few days, it wasn’t anything serious at all.”

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

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