Independent researcher and scientist Juniper Simonis said they were hit in the head by a crowd-control munition fired by federal officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, in the early hours of April 11, 2021.
Simonis said they have been publishing information for several months about law enforcement’s use of chemical irritants at protests on Twitter, for a research and activist group called the Chemical Weapons Research Consortium, and with other outlets.
According to local ABC-affiliate KATU2, demonstrators gathered outside the Portland Immigration and Customs Enforcement building on the preceding Saturday night. Portland police officers arrived around 11:30 p.m. to help Federal Protective Services officers extinguish several burning wooden pallets outside the building that protesters had set on fire. Over the past several months, the ICE building has been the target of numerous protests in support of Black Lives Matter and against police violence and the administration’s immigration policies.
Simonis said they were with a group of journalists in front of the ICE building where plywood sheets covering an entrance had been burned. They said federal officers were firing at the groups through a gap in the plywood sheets.
"They [federal officers] were using cell phones to peek around the corner so they could see where we were," Simonis told the Tracker. "They were targeting us even though it seemed random."
Simonis said the officers fired several times, hitting Simonis in their lower left rib, lower back and face mask, with the last pepper ball ricocheting up and leaving a welt on their forehead.
"I had a bump there that was still tender a month later," Simonis added. Simonis said they were visibly displaying a press badge, a card they made that had their photograph with the publications they write for listed and the word “PRESS” in large letters. Simonis also carried a DSLR camera.
The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.