Independent journalist assaulted and detained by federal agents while covering a Portland protest

July 2, 2020

Independent journalist Ari Taylor told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was assaulted and detained by federal officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on July 2, 2020.

Taylor, who was livestreaming for Halospace Community Media and filming for the Grassroots Activist International Association, was documenting one of the many protests that have been ongoing for months in Portland and across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

The Portland protests had grown more intense as the presence of federal law enforcement increased in early July. A temporary restraining order on July 2 that barred the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists wasn’t expanded to include federal agents until July 23. Taylor said she is participating in a separate class-action suit against federal officers and Chad Wolf, former acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for using excessive force against protesters.

On the night of July 2, several hundred protesters gathered outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center, according to local news station KGW. After several demonstrators broke into the building, federal agents emerged to clear the area around 11:42, according to a Portland Police Bureau report. The Portland police declared a riot about 10 minutes later.

Taylor told the Tracker that right before the riot was declared, she was filming a glass door that had been shattered during an altercation between federal officers and a shirtless individual. According to Taylor, the officers were pushing down on the door and broke it, but the individual was arrested for the incident.

"They [officers] had shoved another member of the press with their shield, and I had gone to help him up," Taylor said. "Then they went after the shirtless individual, and I turned around to get his arrest. I had my back to the officers and was filming the crowd, and that's when they attacked me."

In a video taken by independent journalist Eric Greatwood and posted on YouTube, at about the one-minute mark, several officers can be seen pulling Taylor across the courthouse entrance and into the building amidst clouds of purple smoke and yelling from the crowd. At the 1:45 mark in another video, it is clear that Taylor is being dragged by her arm and leg. Another video shows Taylor's camera footage intercut with another individual's footage, and she can be seen being dragged up the stairs around the 0:50 mark.

Taylor said the officers pulled her across a pile of broken glass, damaging her DSLR camera and lens in the process.

Once inside the building, Taylor identified a mix of officers from the Portland police, DHS, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, based on their uniforms and badges, she told the Tracker. They brought her to a holding facility on the third floor, she said, but wouldn’t tell her what she was being charged with.

"A male officer patted me down and searched me," said Taylor. "Every hour, they'd come in and I'd ask to talk to a lawyer and they wouldn't let me."

Around 5:30 a.m., the officers released her without any paperwork or rationale as to why she was detained, said Taylor, adding that they only stated, "We may be talking later."

"They still have my gimbal," she said, referring to a mechanical stabilizer for her camera. She said the officers had confiscated all her belongings, including her backpack, gas mask and camera equipment when they searched her. "There's nothing to be held accountable. I have no paperwork to prove that I was ever in their facilities."

At the time, Taylor had press credentials stating the organizations she was affiliated with, she said. She tweeted photos of numerous bruises, cuts and scrapes sustained from the incident, and said she ended up going to the hospital for treatment of injuries to her hip, back and foot.

The DHS, which has coordinated the federal presence in Portland, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the incident.

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

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