Eddy Binford-Ross is a rising high school senior who has spent a good amount of her summer vacation dodging tear gas at protests. Binford-Ross — the editor in chief of Clypian, South Salem High School’s student newspaper — has been covering the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, where tactics being used by federal officers have made national headlines. She was shoved by officers and had stun grenades thrown her way, but that didn’t stop her from reporting the story.
What made you interested in covering the standoff in Portland between protesters and federal law enforcement officers? What kept you going back every night?
I have been covering the Black Lives Matter protests in Salem, Oregon, since the beginning. And I had been following Portland before the federal officers showed up. Once the news started to break about the guy who got hit in the head by a munitions canister, and about officers using unmarked vans and unmarked uniforms to pick up people from the street, that was when I told my parents, “We need to go and check this out for ourselves.”
I went up with my dad, and that first night was crazy, because the police response was on a scale unlike anything I had ever seen. When the federal officers came out at the end of one of the city commissioner’s rally, mostly protesters were just sitting on the steps, or standing around the steps listening to music and they just came out and were yelling at everyone to move. Then they started tear gassing everyone. And so it was then that I’m like, “I have to keep coming back. I have to keep seeing how every night is.” I went back almost every night until the federal officers left.
Do you think that you have faced any hostility because of your role as a journalist? Do you think that people looked at you in a different way or treated you a different way once they knew that?
We’ve seen that 100% from the officers. I submitted a declaration in the ACLU suit that resulted in the temporary restraining order, because I had a munitions gun pointed at me while I was standing off to the side with the press corps and there were no protestors near us. And then they turned that gun away. After another officer told them to turn it away, ‘cause that’s press, he turned it right back towards us, even though we were just standing there. I’ve had multiple stun grenades thrown towards me while I was standing off to the side of protesters. I was shoved into the wall at one point. I was standing up against the wall when officers came running out, and I was trying to get out of their way and they seemed to go out of their way to shove me into the wall.
Binford-Ross’ advice to young journalists covering protests: Bring safety equipment. Bring water if there’s a potential of tear gas. Bring masks. And if you don’t have masks, bring bandanas. Bring helmets, bring goggles, all of that. And then, really, be safe. The story is important, but your safety is more important than the story.
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