U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist says she was pushed with baton by Portland police officer while filming an arrest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 8, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 8, 2020

Independent journalist Alissa Azar was pushed by a police officer while she was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 8, 2020, according to the journalist and her social media posts.

Azar was documenting one of the many protests that have been held on almost a nightly basis since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

Law enforcement officers in Portland have targeted journalists since the outbreak of the demonstrations, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The ACLU suit led to a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, barring the Portland Police Bureau from harming or impeding journalists.

The Sept. 8 demonstration began at Waterfront Park downtown after 9 p.m., according to KOIN, the local CBS affiliate. Demonstrators then marched to the nearby Transit Police Department Offices, where protesters threw eggs and water bottles at police officers, KOIN reported.

Sometime before 11 p.m., Azar was filming police officers arrest a protester when some of the officers yelled at her and other members of the press to move back. One of the officers then started pushing Azar with a baton.

“The cops also held back a group of press and stopped us from joining protesters twice. They pushed us pretty hard while already on the sidewalk,” Azar tweeted at 10:53 p.m.

About 20 minutes later, Azar posted a video on Twitter showing the incident. About 30 seconds into the video, while Azar’s camera is trained on the arrest, an officer can be seen pushing Azar backwards with a baton. Azar can be heard responding that she was “on the sidewalk.”

Also around that time, a police officer threatened to arrest Azar and other journalists if they stood in the street. In a video Azar posted on Twitter the next day, a police officer can be overheard saying, “If they’re press and they’re in the street, take them into custody.”

Azar confirmed the events to the Tracker.

The PPB, in a statement on that night’s protest, said several arrests were made of people who were blocking traffic or throwing projectiles at officers during the protest at the transit police offices.

PPB spokesman Derek Carmon declined to comment on the specific incident, but said the department is committed to upholding civil rights for all citizens, including by requiring officers to report any use of force for review.

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