A freelance photojournalist said police shot him in the back with a rubber bullet while he was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on June 12, 2020. The photojournalist asked to remain anonymous out of concerns for his safety and privacy.
Many protests broke out across the U.S. 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.
In Portland, nightly protests over Floyd’s death began on May 29, prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to declare a curfew that lasted three days. Even after the nightly curfew was lifted, journalists continued to be targeted by police, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The photojournalist provided a declaration in support of the suit, which resulted in a temporary restraining order and an agreement by the Portland Police Bureau in July not to arrest, harm or impede any journalists or legal observers.
On June 12, the journalist said he was taking photographs of the protests near the Multnomah County Justice Center — which houses a jail, courtrooms and a Portland police precinct — when he was shot from behind.
“I was taking photos near the Justice Center when police shot me in the back with a rubber bullet,” he said in the court declaration, noting that he had a press pass and he is clearly identified as a journalist. “Fortunately, I was wearing a backpack, or I may have been seriously injured. Shortly after this, the police swarmed the crowd from behind, physically assaulting and beating people at random.”
The shooting made him fearful of covering the demonstrations after that. “After this incident, I stopped reporting on the protests because the actions and attitude of the police made me feel unsafe,” said the journalist, who declined to comment further for the Tracker.
In response to questions about the journalist’s account, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Derek Carmon told the Tracker, “We will not be commenting” because “there is a TRO in place and because the preliminary injunction is still an open litigation case.”
Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve similarly said, “We are not able to comment on pending litigation.”