U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist shoved by police while covering a Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 27, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 27, 2020

Independent journalist Rodrigo Melgarejo was shoved by Portland police while covering a protest in downtown Portland, Oregon, during the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 2020.

The protest was among the many demonstrations that broke out in response to police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 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 had 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 city agreed to a preliminary injunction in July to not to arrest or harm any journalists or legal observers of the protests or impede their work.

On the night of Sept. 26, several hundred protesters gathered in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center for a demonstration that lasted into the early morning hours, according to local news station KGW8. After an unlawful assembly was declared around 11:30 p.m., law enforcement officers “began bull-rushing and pushing protesters, press, and legal observers,” the article said.

“Police push tonight was one of the most brutal show of force by the Portland Police,” Melgarejo tweeted at 3:57 a.m. “Pushing and shoving press members on the ground.”

In the video, officers in riot gear can be seen aggressively pushing people and repeatedly shouting, “Move!” Melgarejo gets shoved about seven seconds into the video, though it's unclear if the officer directly hits the camera with a baton or uses the baton to push someone into the camera. About 10 seconds later, an officer can be seen grabbing someone from behind and slamming them to the ground.

Melgarejo was wearing a ballistic vest and black helmet, both marked as “press,” he told the Tracker.

In a different video, Melgarejo is walking alongside other members of the press when one officer yells at a person wearing a large “press” sign on their chest, "Do you know how many projectiles we take from people wearing press?” the officer asks. “Police your own.”

When reached by email about this incident, the Portland Police Bureau declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

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