U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist arrested in Portland after asking a police officer for his name

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 7, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon
Case number
3:22-cv-00818
Case Status
Ongoing
Type of case
Civil

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Portland Police Bureau
Charges
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?
No
June 6, 2022 - Update

Journalist refiles federal lawsuit against City of Portland two years after 2020 arrest

Journalist Bea Lake filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Portland on June 6, 2022, alleging that officers violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her while she was documenting protests two years earlier.

Lake was covering Black Lives Matter protests in Portland as staff for iHeartMedia radio network podcasts hosted by journalist Robert Evans. On June 7, 2020, Lake was arrested then released the following day on charges of “interfering with a Peace Officer.” The charges against her were dropped in February 2021, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

According to the federal lawsuit filed on her behalf, Lake was complying with Portland Police Bureau orders to move away from the Justice Center in downtown Portland when an officer said that “press passes don’t matter.”

Lake asked the officer his name and, when he didn’t respond, repeated the question a second time. The officer responded, “You want to go to jail?” and grabbed her from behind by her press gear bag.

In July 2020, Lake and Evans, who was hit with a crowd-control munition and shoved by law enforcement, joined a class action lawsuit against the City of Portland. Jane Moisan, the attorney representing the journalists, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she filed the case in state court in order to raise the issue of officers’ use of force against crowds and establish those protections under state law. However, Moisan said, the case was quickly removed to federal court where it sat for months before it was remanded back to the Multnomah County Circuit Court in December 2020.

“By that time the protests had tapered off and really our purpose in going after the case in the first place had just been made more or less moot,” Moisan said. “We were really looking at: Where is it in state law that ever even justifies the use of force against a crowd? It’s more set forth in federal law than state law. I think that’s a good question to be looking at in general, we just got kind of outplayed on this one.”

Lake voluntarily dismissed her claims in the class action lawsuit in order to file the federal lawsuit, Moisan said. Evans reached a settlement agreement with the city for $5,000, and the case was formally dismissed on July 18, 2022.

June 7, 2020

Bea Lake, who works as a staffer for podcasts hosted by journalist Robert Evans on iHeartMedia radio network, was arrested in Portland, Oregon, while covering protests on June 7, 2020. A video of the incident shows an officer telling Lake to leave, Lake asking for the officer’s name, then Lake being arrested. Police and other records show Lake was charged with “interfering with a Peace Officer” and released several hours later.

Protesters gathered outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland the night of June 7 as part of ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Shortly before midnight, law enforcement declared the gathering an unlawful assembly after protesters threw water bottles, cans and other objects over a fence and in the direction of police officers, according to the Portland Police Bureau and live streams from the scene. The officers ordered anyone in the area to leave and fired flash grenades to clear the area.

Lake was filming officers dispersing the crowd when an officer approached and said to leave. At 17:45 into a video recording of the incident posted to Twitter, the officer is heard saying “press passes don’t matter.”

Lake then asks the officer for his name, to which he replies by pointing to a number written on his shirt. He then says “keep moving.” After Lake asks again for his name, the officer says “You want to go to jail? You’re under arrest.” As the officer grabs and arrests Lake, she can be heard shouting repeatedly “I am press, I am not resisting.”

iHeart Radio’s Evans posted the video on Twitter June 8, followed by the message “She is free with a citation, which we will fight.” The arrest of Lake is described, without giving Lake’s name, on page 21 of a complaint filed by the ACLU against the city of Portland; Portland police records note the arrest of Bea Lake, 31, charged with “interfering with a Peace Officer.”

The Tracker was unable to reach Lake and Evans for comment, and it is unclear if the charge is still pending against Lake. The Portland Police Bureau did not respond to an email seeking comment on the incident.

In July 2020, Lake and Evans joined a class action lawsuit against the city of Portland. In the complaint, the journalists alleged that police officers used unnecessary force and interfered with their abilities to do their jobs as members of the press during the protests, according to news reports. No information on the status of the lawsuit was available from any of the involved parties as of March 2021.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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