Yuliya Olkhovskaya, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Russia’s Channel One, said that she and cameraman Viacheslav Arkhipov were assaulted by federal agents while covering protests against police violence in Portland, Oregon, on July 21, 2020.
Protests continued for months in downtown Portland in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On the evening of July 21, demonstrators gathered outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. courthouse, where protesters held signs and sang songs, according to Olkhovskaya.
The gathering remained peaceful, she told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, until some new arrivals began to agitate the crowd. A Department of Homeland Security report about the evening describes several hours of violence, including attempts to set fire to the courthouse and break into its entrance.
Olkhovskaya said that as she observed the courthouse scene about 9 p.m., she felt a kick from behind. "It was completely unexpected because there had been no officers around. They came from the back doors," she told the Tracker. "One of them pushed me to the ground and I dropped my phone.”
Olkhovskaya said she and Arkhipov both had State Department-issued press badges visibly displayed and had a camera on a tripod nearby. “It was obvious we were a professional crew,” she said.
Arkhipov, who was hit with a baton and pushed to the ground, said federal agents snatched the camera from his hands and threw it to the ground. The Tracker documented his assault here.
Olkhovskaya said that she repeatedly yelled that she was press, but the officers never acknowledged that. She said one officer grabbed her helmet, threw it to the ground and pushed her away. After the officers left the area, she returned to the courthouse area, only to find a few remnants of the camera and no helmet.
"They destroyed it completely and intentionally," Olkhovskaya said. "I still don't understand why they broke our camera."
Olkhovskaya said she got scratches on her hands but they were able to file a story about the protest and their encounter with what the story described as “extremely aggressive” security forces.
According to an Izvestia news report, the Russian Federation sent official complaints to the United States about the Portland attack and another assault on Channel One journalists in Philadelphia in October. The Dec. 15, 2020, story said there had been no response from the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a Tracker request for comment on the two Channel One incidents.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.