Independent photojournalist John Rudoff said he was hit with crowd-control munitions fired by federal law enforcement officers while he was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on July 19, 2020.
Rudoff 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.
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 wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23. Rudoff gave declarations in support of the class action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon, that led to the TRO.
Rudoff was hit in the shoulder with a projectile while documenting federal agents emerging from the courthouse and shooting tear gas and munitions, he said in his declaration for the ACLU.
“Suddenly, and for no reason, a federal agent shot me in my right shoulder, inches from my head,” Rudoff wrote, adding that he believes he was hit with a 40mm rubber bullet. “The pain was so bad that I had to retreat into the park and stop documenting for around 15 minutes while I recovered.”
Rudoff said he felt targeted as press. “I have body armor that has ‘press’ on it in several-inch-high letters front and back, and a helmet that has ‘press’ on it in inch-high letters front and back,” he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “I intentionally stand away from crowds as best I can, and intentionally I’m dressed in light-colored clothing as much as possible.”
In the declaration, he also noted that he had two large professional cameras with him and was wearing a National Press Photographers Association press pass.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment.