A freelance photojournalist was hit by projectiles fired by federal law enforcement officials in the early hours of July 20, 2020, while he was covering protests in Portland, Oregon.
Jungho Kim was hit by a pink paint projectile while covering one of the many protests that had broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after 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 wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23. Kim declared his support of the class action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon, that led to the TRO.
At 12:05 a.m., Kim was standing between Chapman and Lownsdale squares after federal agents had cleared the area and formed a police line, he told the Tracker. He estimates that there were about 50 federal officers in the area, with the closest ones about 20 feet away from him.
“All of a sudden I felt this impact on my chest,” said Kim. “I looked down, and I was covered in pink paint.” He didn’t suffer any bodily harm from the impact, which he attributes his ballistic vest. The last photograph Kim took before he was hit shows a line of dozens of officers ahead of him, too far away to make out any identification.
At 12:20 a.m., Kim tweeted, “Portland Police are targeting journalists, including me (I'm okay, I'm wearing a ballistic vest). Do I look easy to mistake for anything other than press?” He clarified in a later tweet that he thought it was actually federal agents that shot him.
The accompanying photo shows pink paint splattered on the reflective part of Kim’s neon yellow vest, where the word “press” is written in large letters. A press pass is hanging from a lanyard around his neck.
Kim isn’t sure who fired the rounds, but he believes he was targeted for being press. “The fact that I was shot in the chest, basically where it says press, I think that that’s pretty blatant,” he told the Tracker, noting that he was in a well-lit area with no protesters around.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment.