U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist Liam Cohen pepper-sprayed by police while covering Patriot Prayer rally

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 30, 2018
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
June 30, 2018

Freelance photojournalist Liam Cohen was tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed by police officers while covering a far-right rally in Portland, Oregon, on June 30, 2018.

Cohen was documenting the rally for the Willamette Week, a Portland alt-weekly, when he got caught in between members of the far-right Patriot Prayer group and counterprotesters.

“Tear gas got shot in the middle to try to break the groups up,” Cohen told Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Cohen said he then was pushed around the corner heading north on 2nd St, where police officers in riot gear shot streams of pepper spray into the crowd.

“They shot right at me,” he said. “It seemed like they were going for a broad ‘let’s hit everybody.’ I think they were targeting anyone who was near that skirmish.”

He resumed documenting the protest shortly after being tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed.

“I’ve been pepper sprayed before, so in a weird way, I’m used to it,” Cohen said. “Everything was burning at first, but this passed after a few minutes. I waited until I got my bearings, threw water into my eyes from my water bottle, and just continued following the protest.”

Cohen said that at the time he was pepper-sprayed, he was carrying a large camera and wore both press credentials and a press patch.

“The way that Portland police handle this...they don’t discriminate against hitting journalists," he said. "If they saw me and knew that I was press, they didn’t care. That’s the way it goes out there, they don’t care if you’re press or not.”

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