Photojournalist struck multiple times by crowd-control munitions fired by federal agents

July 12, 2020

Photojournalist Mathieu Lewis-Rolland was hit with multiple rounds of non-lethal projectiles fired by federal agents while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, in the early morning hours of July 12, 2020.

Protests have broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following 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.

At 1:58 a.m. on July 12, Lewis-Rolland began filming live on Facebook, documenting as federal agents emerged from the U.S. Courthouse and started moving the crowd toward the west. About one minute into the video, a federal officer can be seen raising his gun at Lewis-Rolland, but not firing. When Lewis-Rolland reached the intersection of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Main Street, about a block from the Courthouse, he turned to take a photograph of a teargas canister rolling into the intersection when he was shot multiple times. The impact of the non-lethal plastic munitions ripped his T-shirt in at least two places.

In a declaration in support of the ACLU lawsuit that led to the TRO, Lewis-Rolland said that one or more federal agents shot him 10 times with impact munitions. He shared photographs of his injuries with the ACLU, including one large laceration and two smaller contusions on his right side, a laceration on his right elbow, two large lacerations on his back and four smaller contusions on his left side. Munitions recovered from the intersection are also pictured.

“I was not posing any type of threat to Agent Doe or anyone else. I was not even facing him,” Lewis-Rolland said in the declaration.

While a number of federal agencies had officers in Portland in July, it wasn’t clear which agency the officers were from. The Department of Homeland Security, which coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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

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