Student journalist says federal agents threw crowd-control munitions at her during Portland protests

July 19, 2020

Eddy Binford-Ross, a 17-year-old student journalist, said federal agents threw a stun grenade and tear gas canister at her on July 19, 2020, while she was covering protests in Portland, Oregon.

Binford-Ross, editor in chief at her high school student newspaper in Salem, Oregon,

was covering one of the many protests that had broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after 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.

July 19 marked the 53rd day of protests in Portland, Binford-Ross reported in her school paper, The Clypian. The protests had grown more intense with the arrival of federal law enforcement 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. Binford-Ross is a plaintiff in the class action suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon.

The mood at the demonstrations had felt positive at the start of the night, Binford-Ross told the Tracker. She was covering the second night of protests by the “Wall of Moms” outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown, a nightly flashpoint for confrontations between protesters and federal agents.

Just before 10 p.m., law enforcement issued a warning to protesters who had been attempting to dismantle the fence around the courthouse, which the federal government considered crucial to its presence, according to a document obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting. When the moms formed a barrier between protesters and the fence to de-escalate tensions, federal officers rushed out of the courthouse and pointed guns at protesters from the other side of the fence.

It was just before midnight when the stun grenade was thrown towards Binford-Ross, she said. After some protesters had taken down parts of the fence, agents deployed stun grenades and tear gas to push protesters back into the street. Binford-Ross had already begun to retreat into Chapman Square and was away from most protesters when the multi-port stun grenade landed near her. When she tried to move away, an agent threw a tear gas canister in her path.

“It was really inhumane,” Binford-Ross said. “It would be one thing if I was running towards officers, but I was running away from them, I was trying to get away from that situation.”

Her mother, Warren Binford, accompanied her and tweeted a video of the moment the stun grenade exploded. “The US #BorderPatrol threw this stun grenade at me & my minor daughter, both US citizens, while she was covering this local story,” her mother wrote.

Another tweet shows the stun grenade marked “BORTAC,” which is an acronym for the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit.

In addition to having press identification, Binford-Ross had added additional press markings since being targeted with crowd-control munitions the day before, including a helmet marked “press” on all four sides and pants with “press” written with reflective tape spelling down the leg

While she’d felt more prepared to cover that night’s demonstrations since beginning her protest coverage in Portland two nights before, she still has moments when the odors of tear gas come to her at random times. “It definitely takes a mental and emotional toll,” said Binford-Ross, who covered more than 30 BLM protests in Portland and Salem for the school paper over the summer. Her tweets about the protests were used by ABC, Reuters, Yahoo News and other outlets.

The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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