Independent journalist Brian Conley was hit with crowd-control munitions fired by law enforcement officers while covering a protest at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, Oregon, on Oct. 17, 2020.
Racial justice protests had been held regularly in Portland since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Several protests in the city have targeted federal government buildings, and on the evening of Oct. 17, protesters marched on the ICE building in South Portland.
Conley was filming a standoff between federal agents and protesters when the agents began firing pepper balls and moving forward in an attempt to clear the street. Conley was pushed by one of the agents and then tripped over a person who was already on the ground. Tumbling to the ground, Conley dropped his phone. When he got up and tried to retrieve it, he said officers fired pepper balls at him.
“He barreled directly into me, knocked me into the ground,” Conley told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker when describing how the officer pushed him down. “Then when I went to get my phone, he started shooting the ground around me.”
Conley said he had press markings on his body armor and was visibly filming close to the agents when the incident occurred.
In a video Conley uploaded to Twitter at 11:43 p.m., the footage goes dark as Conley drops his phone and heavy pepper-ball fire can be heard before he picks it up again.
“I’m press, buddy! I’m press. You can’t shoot me!” he yells at one officer after he retrieves his phone. He then approaches another federal agent and says: “Tell your buddy to leave me alone.”
Conley told the Tracker he had “pretty bad” shoulder pain after the incident as well as a knot around the area where the back of his skull meets his neck.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incidents from the Tracker. ICE, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, responded by telling the Tracker to contact the Department of Homeland Security.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.