Photojournalist John Rudoff was struck in the leg with a projectile fired by federal agents in Portland, Oregon, early on the morning of July 22, 2020, causing injuries that forced him to temporarily stop reporting on the demonstrations.
Protests had been held in Portland on almost a nightly basis since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering BLM protests across the country.
The Portland protests 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 is a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon, that led to the ban.
On the night of July 21, the “Wall of Moms” and thousands of other demonstrators converged on the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown, where frequent confrontations between protesters and federal agents continued into the early hours of the next morning, according to the local KPTV news station.
Around 12:40 a.m. on the 22nd, Rudoff was documenting a protest at the intersection of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Salmon Street, a block from the courthouse, according to a declaration he provided in the ACLU case. While Rudoff was photographing a line of federal officers, he felt “a tremendous strike and extreme pain” on his leg, according to the document.
Rudoff, whose work has been published by Rolling Stone, the Nation and The New York Times, told the Tracker he was shot with a universal projectile ammunition, which is used in a riot gun.
He “hobbled” across the street, where friends assisted him with first aid, according to the declaration. Rudoff wasn’t able to continue his assignment, he wrote, since he was “in too much pain,” and the pain continued throughout the night after he went home. Photographs of the injury provided in the declaration, taken hours after the incident, show a raw, red abrasion.
Rudoff told the Tracker that he wasn’t near any protesters at the time he was struck, and believes that he was targeted. He was wearing a helmet and vest emblazoned with the word “press” in large letters, as well as a laminated press credential issued by the National Press Photographers Association, he wrote in the declaration.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the incidents.