U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

New York Times bureau chief hit with paintball while covering pro-Trump rally in Portland

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 29, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 29, 2020

Mike Baker, Seattle bureau chief for The New York Times, said he was hit with less-lethal munitions, identified as paintballs, while covering a pro-Trump caravan that went through downtown Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 29, 2020.

Baker was covering the “Trump cruise rally,” which began at the Clackamas Town Center parking lot, about nine miles outside of Portland. Trump supporters were met with counterprotesters as they drove through the downtown, sparking confrontations, according to local news outlet KATU.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported online videos showing the “flag-adorned trucks driving through groups of protesters, firing paintball guns at crowds and deploying what appears to be pepper spray,” leading to “dangerous, tense confrontations.”

Baker was filming the pro-Trump caravan at the intersection of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Washington Street downtown when a man riding in the bed of a black pickup truck flying a Trump flag opened fire with a paintball gun.

“The person in the back of the truck just started shooting their paintball gun into the crowd, just kind of shooting indiscriminately at anyone,” Baker told the Tracker. He was hit by a paintball in the back of the shoulder as he was turning away, he said, adding that it caused bruising but no serious injury. Baker was wearing body armor with press markings at the time he was hit, he told the Tracker

Baker captured footage of the incident, which he posted on Twitter at 8:15 p.m. As pickup trucks adorned with Trump and American flags drive through the intersection, a counterprotester can be seen trying to light a Trump flag on fire and another extends their middle finger at the caravan. A clear liquid of some kind can be seen being sprayed towards the caravan from the anti-Trump crowd, as a man in the back of a pickup fires a paintball at Baker and other people gathered on the sidewalk. Then a man in the next pickup deploys a yellow-tinted chemical irritant.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests that have broken out across the country in response to police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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