U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

VICE freelancer hit with mace and projectiles during clash of rival rallies in Portland

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 22, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 22, 2020

While covering rival protests in Portland for VICE News on Aug. 22, 2020, freelance journalist Donovan Farley posted a series of tweets reporting that he was maced and hit with projectiles. In his tweets, Farley identified his attackers as right-wing protesters.

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the protest began around noon as two groups faced off in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center. In a tweet, Farley characterized one group’s action as a “pro-police” rally. Countering that gathering was a group identified as anti-fascists, according to OPB.

At 1:07 p.m.Farley tweeted that he had been shot with paintballs “like five times” by a protester. About 10 minutes later he tweeted that he was hit by a water bottle in the “dome,” apparently referring to his head, as “right folks opened fire on protester and press alike” with various projectiles. Farley did not specify which group threw the water bottle and he did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“Within an hour of meeting, protesters began to push each other and throw objects,” OPB said in its report. “Some demonstrators on the pro-police side fired paintball guns and deployed pepper spray on counterdemonstrators. Other protesters used baseball bats. Many people wore helmets and body armor as they punched, kicked and tore at each other.”

At 1:23 p.m. Farley posted what he identified as photos of paintball stains on his clothes. His tweet showed a bright yellow helmet labeled “MEDIA” as well as a photo of his chest area, above his press pass. “I took quite a lot of hits. Got my arms too,” Farley wrote.

A few minutes later, Farley tweeted that he was “shot directly in the phone” (he did not specify with what). “It’s a bunch of things being thrown by both sides at the moment but it sure seems #BlueLivesMatter is targeting press. Not everyone mind you—it’s mostly Proud Boys. A few of the other folks have been fine,” he tweeted.

He also tweeted that a group he said was mostly members of the far-right Proud Boys tried to push over a van with an unidentified member of the press on it. In a video tweeted by Farley at 1:41 p.m., the person standing on the van is clearly marked “PRESS” on their neon vest and appears to be holding a camera.

A few minutes later Farley tweeted, “I’m now realizing I got maced at some point as all my skin is on fire.” He speculated that it might have been “bear mace” in a later tweet. Bear spray is a defense against wildlife that contains capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is the active ingredient that makes chili peppers hot.

According to OPB, most of the right-wing demonstrators left the downtown area by 2:30 that day, before the Portland Police Bureau declared an unlawful assembly at 2:50 p.m.

At 3:28 p.m. Farley tweeted that he was feeling the effects of the mace and was leaving the downtown area. “I am on absolute fire,” he said.

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