Independent photojournalist Trip Jennings was struck in his eye with a pepper ball that pierced one of the plastic lenses on his gas mask on July 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon, while he covered civil unrest in the city.
Jennings was covering one of the many protests that broke out in Portland 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.
Protests have been held nightly in Portland since late May, which grew more intense in July as the presence of federal law enforcement increased in the city. Since July, both police and federal agents in the city have been under court orders not to harm journalists or otherwise impede their work.
In a Twitter thread, Jennings said he was taking photos of the police response to demonstrations at the intersection of SW 4th Avenue and SW Salmon Street near the Multnomah County Justice Center, standing among demonstrators, when authorities gave an order to disperse.
As the crowd began to disperse, federal agents fired crowd-control munitions that included pepper balls, rubber bullets and tear gas, he wrote.
Jennings wrote that he was ducking for cover behind a tree when what he believes to be a pepper ball hit him in the face, broke through one of the plastic lenses on his gas mask and cut his eye and cheek.
The journalist found medics near the scene. “‘Oh my God, that’s bad!’” one of the street medics tending to his injuries remarked, according to Jennings.
Jennings told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that three medics escorted him to a vehicle to drive him to the emergency room at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in northwest Portland. As the group drove away from the scene, federal agents fired impact munitions at the vehicle, he said.
“On the way to the hospital, we drove through clouds of teargas so windows stayed shut and the pepper spray on my clothing and bag choked us all,” Jennings tweeted.
The pepper spray still clung to Jennings after he arrived at Good Samaritan, causing the doctor who treated his injury to cough repeatedly behind a surgical mask, according to Jennings. The doctor put on a respirator mask prior to sewing eight stitches into Jennings’ eyelid and face, he told the Tracker.
The Portland Police Bureau has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation.