Social media journalist Chris Khatami was hit with a law enforcement munition used for crowd control while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 23, 2020. Khatami told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he did not believe he was targeted.
Khatami, who hosts an entertainment show on the platform Twitch, has been documenting and livestreaming the city’s protests for racial justice and against police brutality on social media for several months.
On Sept. 23, protesters gathered outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland to demonstrate against the Kentucky Attorney General’s announcement that a grand jury had declined to charge any police officers in the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to Khatami, around midnight, officers began pushing protesters away from the building and through Chapman Square, which housed a large encampment of homeless people. It was a chaotic scene, Khatami told the Tracker, as he tried to film officers pushing and grabbing protesters in the dark, while not trampling the belongings of the encampment’s residents.
In the midst of this, Khatami said he was hit on the hand by a crowd-control munition, but that it did not leave a mark or cause injury. He said he was not sure what kind of munition it was, and he did not believe he was targeted.
Earlier that evening, around 11 p.m., Khatami said police officers threw a gas canister directly toward where he was standing with a group of journalists, all of whom were clearly labeled “press.” Khatami was wearing homemade signs that said “press” taped to his backpack, shirt and helmet, he told the Tracker.
The journalist said the canister bounced away and he was not hit with any chemical irritant.
Since July, law enforcement officers from the PPB and federal agencies have been barred by court rulings from arresting, harming or impeding journalists or legal observers of the protests. Sergeant Kevin Allen, a Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer, told the Tracker in an email that he was unable to provide comment on the incident because “there is active litigation involving the City of Portland on the topic you’re asking about.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.