U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shoved, shot with pepper balls during Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 30, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 30, 2020

Scott Keeler, an independent journalist, said he was shoved and shot with pepper balls by law enforcement officers while covering a protest in northeast Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 30, 2020.

Keeler was documenting one of the many nightly protests held in Portland 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.

Law enforcement officers in Portland have targeted journalists since the outbreak of the demonstrations, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The ACLU suit led the city to agree to a preliminary injunction in July to not arrest, harm or impede the work of journalists or legal observers of the protests.

Keeler was outside the Penumbra Kelly Building, which has been a repeated focus of demonstrators because it houses the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and some Portland Police Bureau units. The Aug. 30 protest was declared an “unlawful assembly” at 10:40 p.m. after protesters threw rocks and eggs at officers, according to the local KATU news station.

Keeler was covering a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement across the street at around 11 p.m. when the incidents occurred. Video posted on Twitter by Keeler shows officers from the PPB and MCSO taking several protesters to the ground and arresting them.

In a separate tweet, Keeler said he and other members of the press “were shot in the feet with pepper balls from no more than a foot away to force us to back despite being forced to stay in the completely confined space by another cop on the opposite side of the scrum.”

The MCSCO didn’t respond to a request for comment. The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.

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