Photojournalist describes being shot while covering Portland protests
© Courtesy Trip Jennings

A photojournalist says he was shot by police this week while covering the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Ore.

In an interview with The Hill, Trip Jennings, a veteran photographer who has worked with PBS and National Geographic, said he was “quickly walking” away from the demonstration early Sunday morning following an order to disperse when he was struck with what he believes was a pepper ball. He said the object struck his gas mask, which then lacerated his left eye.

Jennings, who also described the incident in detail in a Facebook post, said in the interview that he was taken to a hospital for treatment and it “doesn’t seem” that there will be any long-term damage.

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Jennings, who is white, added that his experience is “a teeny taste of the fear and danger that people of color have every time they interact with police.”

“I hope that when people see the photos — of me, of my bloody eye, of my broken gas mask — they can think about how difficult it would be to worry about your friends or your loved ones every day interacting with that violence,” Jennings said.

Other members of the media say they have had similar encounters with police while covering protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One incident was caught on video during a live broadcast.

Jennings said that in the protest he was photographing, federal agents began firing tear gas and impact munitions into the crowd.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a report that federal officers declared the gathering illegal at 11:19 p.m. on Saturday, and local officers declared the situation a “riot” at 1:11 a.m. on Sunday.

Jennings said he decided to leave during a pause in activity. During his departure, he said he crouched behind a car to snap a few photos of agents shooting at a line of protesters positioned behind shields.

He said that after ducking behind a tree, he turned back and exposed the eye shields in his gas mask, and that’s when he was shot.

“The plastic broke, lacerating my eye, eyelid, and cheek,” he wrote on Facebook.

He told The Hill he was a block-and-a-half from the federal courthouse when it happened.

Federal agents shot at the car as they pulled out of the protest area to drive to the hospital, Jennings wrote in the post. He added that when he got to the emergency room, the doctor had to leave the room multiple times as she stitched his eye because the pepper on Jennings was making her cough, even as she wore a respirator.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said local and federal officers responded to the scene, where federal officers used pepper balls in an effort to “repel … violent actors” and to prevent “damage to federal property.” The agency’s report mentioned both Federal Protective Services and Department of Homeland Security officers, as well as a more general “federal officers.”

DHS did not respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for Federal Protective Services, a division of DHS, and Portland police said their offices were unable to comment. 

On Wednesday, some federal officers agreed to leave Portland, after weeks of clashes between officers and protesters. President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE on Thursday insisted that federal agents would not leave Portland until Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) “clear[s] out” protesters from the city, a day after Brown announced an agreement with the federal government to begin withdrawing federal tactical teams from the area.