Jonathan House, a photo editor and photographer for Pamplin Media Group and the Portland Tribune, said he was shot with an impact munition while covering protests in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Multiple other journalists also reported being targeted with crowd-control munitions that day.
House was covering one of the many protests that broke out 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.
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.
Demonstrations that began the night of July 20 stretched into the early hours of the next day, according to the Oregonian, as the “Wall of Moms” and other protesters confronted federal officers stationed at the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center downtown.
House was filming from across the street from the courthouse and Justice Center when he was shot in the arm. A video that House posted on Twitter at 12:34 a.m. shows a fire in the plaza on Southwest Main Street where an elk statue used to stand. About 29 seconds into the video, the frame wobbles as House is hit. “Federal agents moved in to clear the crowd. My arm got shot with an impact munition as I was taking this video (near the end),” House tweeted.
House said he believes he was targeted. "This felt like the first time that I was specifically targeted," he told the Portland Tribune. "That rubber bullet was six inches from putting me into the hospital."
House told the Tracker that he was wearing a bright blue climbing helmet marked “press,” as well as identification on his backpack and a large press pass.
“I understand that you shoot tear gas out and it just takes up whole city blocks, especially if it’s windy,” he said. “But it seems particularly egregious if I’m kind of just standing there and I’ve got both my hands up while I’m filming something, and then one shot is literally coming right at me and hitting me.”
DHS, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, said in a statement that officers used pepper balls and tear gas to respond to an “assault” against the courthouse and law enforcement officers by rioters. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incidents.
The Portland police said in a statement that its officers weren’t present and didn’t engage with protesters that evening.