U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist assaulted, her phone and finger smashed while covering Portland eviction protest

Incident Details

December 8, 2020

KATU ABC 2 reporter Genevieve Reaume was assaulted and had her phone smashed by individuals participating in an eviction protest in Portland, Oregon, on Dec. 8, 2020.

Reaume and KATU ABC 2 photojournalist Ric Peavyhouse were covering a protest against the feared eviction of a Black and Indigenous family from their foreclosed home in North Portland. Activists had been camping out at the property on North Mississippi Avenue — known as the “Red House” — for months when law enforcement came in on the morning of Dec. 8 to try to take control of the house. As more protesters poured into the area, there were clashes with law enforcement before officers withdrew. Protesters ultimately built barricades blocking streets in the area.

Speaking to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Reaume says she and Peavyhouse had spent an hour in the early afternoon of Dec. 8 interviewing people in the neighborhood before deciding to enter the barricaded zone. As they came upon a barricade, Reaume says they were approached by protesters trying to block their cameras with umbrellas and telling them they could not film there. After they walked away and let the situation calm down, they decided once more to enter the area.

“Immediately somebody started yelling, ‘Film crew,’” Reaume said. “That’s when a dozen or so, a dozen and a half people started coming over towards us, surrounding Ric’s camera with their umbrellas and their bodies.”

Aware that Peavyhouse’s camera was blocked by protesters, Reaume pulled out her cellphone and began to record video. As she attempted to film, she says a man kept pushing her and trying to grab her phone. When he succeeded in knocking it out of her hand, he then smashed it on the ground and pushed her away again as she tried to retrieve it.

“I finally was able to get my hand onto it and he just stomped on my hand,” she told the Tracker.

Reaume’s left middle finger was cut open, an injury that she had to have glued shut at an urgent care. The incident left her work phone inoperable and with a cracked screen.

In a video captured by Peavyhouse, umbrellas can be seen trying to block his camera in the run up to the assault while a voice is heard yelling, “There’s a film crew coming through. They’re not our friends. Hide your faces! Don’t trust them! Film crew walking through!”

As the protesters surround the journalists and tell them to leave, a woman can be heard saying, “We got cameras we need.”

In Reaume’s shorter video of the confrontation, she can be heard explaining to protesters that “this is our job.”

“I don’t care. This is our life,” responds one. “Your job is hurting us,” says another.

Then, the phone appears to tumble to the ground, landing with its camera facing skyward as an individual brings their foot down on the device.

As Reaume and Peavyhouse moved to leave the area following the assault, protesters followed them, with some taunting her and shouting, “Bye, bitch!” and “Fuck your hand!”

Contacted by the Tracker, the Portland Police Bureau did not comment on the incident.

Reaume said she believes she and Peavyhouse had not been wearing anything branded with their station’s name, though they still very obviously looked like a TV news crew, she said.

Other Oregon news outlets noted a general hostility toward the press inside the barricaded zone.

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, protesters inside the barricaded zone banned “anyone from taking photos or videos, including pedestrians and neighbors out walking” while limiting livestreamers to a designated area.

And the Oregonian reported that a building in the area had “Fuck Press” spray-painted on it.

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