U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videojournalist targeted with projectiles at Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 20, 2021
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
January 20, 2021

Independent videojournalist Mason Lake said he was targeted by various crowd-control munitions by federal officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 20, 2021.

According to The Oregonian, protesters gathered in South Portland’s Elizabeth Caruthers Park to push for more rapid policy changes than they believed President Joe Biden had promised during his inauguration that day. Later in the night, many marched a few blocks south toward the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building to oppose the detention of migrant children in cage-like quarters, the Oregonian reported. Demonstrators chanted “Abolish ICE” and spray-painted “Reunite families now” onto the building. In a video and tweet released shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 20, the Portland Police Bureau said it had declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and stated that its officers used crowd-control munitions to get people to disperse.

Between 10 and 11 p.m., Lake said he was filming at the ICE building and standing next to other members of the press when Department of Homeland Security and ICE officers, whom he identified by their uniforms and badges, threw an explosive device at his foot.

“When the officer throws it, they do it right when I pan my camera to the left away from them,” Lake said in an interview with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “They don’t know it, but my camera is actually a wide angle. As soon as I pan, he throws it in an underhand chuck.”

He identified the device as an instantaneous blast munition, which rattled him because he didn’t have hearing protection, but did not otherwise injure him. In a video shared to YouTube, Lake uses another reporter’s footage, which shows a canister being thrown directly at his feet at 0:33. Lake said officers also used numerous other munitions, including riot control CS gas.

Lake said he had press credentials from the National Press Photographers Association, nonprofit media cooperative Halospace Media and Boop Troop Eugene LLC, a live media outlet that covers protests and local events, in addition to visible press markings on his clothes and helmet.

DHS, which coordinated the ICE presence in Portland, did not respond to an emailed request for comment. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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