U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent journalist assaulted by police while covering Portland protests in July

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 16, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
July 16, 2020

Independent journalist Alissa Azar said she was assaulted by Portland police while covering protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, on July 16, 2020.

The protests were among many demonstrations that broke out across the country in response to police violence following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis.

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 case resulted in a temporary restraining order on July 2 barring the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists, which was expanded to apply the ban to federal agents later that month.

Journalist Griffin Malone — whose work has appeared on PBS, ABC and The Associated Press — told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was reporting outside the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department Office with Azar and two National Lawyers Guild observers when the deputies rushed out of the sheriff’s office. Amid the rush, officers pushed Azar and kicked her ankle, according to Malone

Azar told the Tracker that she was also hit on the ankle by a flash-bang grenade, which drew blood. She also said she had bruises across her legs from being hit with crowd-control munitions.

Azar told the Tracker she was wearing a vest and helmet, both labeled with press markings, as well as a credential from Pacific Northwest Press Corps, which describes itself as an association of independent journalists covering ongoing protests in Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.

When reached for comment in the fall of 2020, the Portland Police Bureau told the Tracker it wouldn’t comment on specific incidents, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case. Then in early 2021, PPB spokesman Derek Carmon said the department was committed to upholding civil rights for all citizens, including by requiring officers to report any use of force for review. The PPB did not respond to a request for comment about these specific incidents as of press time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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