U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist hit with tear gas canister

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 23, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
July 23, 2020

Photojournalist Mathieu Lewis-Rolland said he was hit in the chest with a tear gas canister deployed by federal agents while he was covering protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, early on July 23, 2020.

Protests had been held in Portland on almost a nightly basis since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering BLM protests across the country.

The Portland protests 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. Lewis-Rolland is a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon.

Lewis-Rolland, whose work has been published by the Portland Mercury, The New York Times and Reuters, said he was struck in the chest with a tear gas canister fired by federal agents early the morning of July 23.

Video shared by Lewis-Rolland with the Tracker shows canisters of tear gas being shot down the middle of an empty street, when sparks suddenly fly close to the frame. Lewis-Rolland abruptly jerks his camera, and as he moves away, a tear gas canister is visible on the sidewalk.

In an Aug. 10 document filed in the ACLU lawsuit, Lewis-Rolland said that the canister struck him.

According to the court papers, when he was covering protests in Portland at that time in July he had started wearing a fluorescent vest with a transparent pocket, where he displayed a press badge issued by the Portland Mercury. He also wore a helmet and backpack with the word “PRESS” written in several places.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the incidents.

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