Roman Mendoza, a reporter for the California-based nonprofit news organization the Davis Vanguard, was shot in the thigh and ankle with crowd control munitions while covering protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, on July 28, 2020.
The protest was held in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25. 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 was expanded to include federal agents on July 23.
On the night of July 28, protesters gathered downtown at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, which had emerged as a nightly flashpoint between protesters and federal agents. The protest continued past midnight and into the next day.
Mendoza told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he had been recording protests that night in front of the courthouse and in the park across the street. As he exited the park, Mendoza said officers were spraying people with crowd control munitions, and he was struck in the ankle and thigh. Mendoza said he believes a rubber bullet struck his thigh, but he couldn’t identify what had struck his ankle.
“I didn’t feel it very much in the moment because of the adrenaline,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t even recognize what had happened.”
In Mendoza’s footage of the incident, he appears to be walking through a cloud of tear gas near the edge of the park as more than a dozen protesters walk and run through the frame. The camera appears to suddenly shake and Mendoza can be heard exclaiming in pain. Immediately after, Mendoza continues filming as he walks towards a line of unidentified law enforcement officers.
Mendoza said both the helmet and backpack he was wearing that night were labeled “PRESS.”
The PPB declined to comment when emailed about this incident. The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.