U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist covering Portland protest shoved by law enforcement officers

Incident Details

Date of Incident
November 4, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

Police stand in front of protesters the day after Election Day in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 4, 2020. Journalist Mason Lake was shoved by police while documenting protests there that day.

June 27, 2022 - Update

Oregon video journalist files suit over Portland police assaults

Independent video journalist Mason Lake filed a lawsuit in June 2022 against the City of Portland, Oregon, and two unnamed police officers over a series of police assaults in 2020 and 2021.

Lake alleges that while covering protests during that time, Portland police in seven separate incidents shoved, pepper-sprayed, threatened, pinned, grabbed and punched him, and damaged his equipment. Among the incidents was one in which he says he was shoved by police officers while covering a protest on Nov. 4, 2020.

According to court documents, Lake alleges that the incidents caused “physical injury as well as fear” and that the city customarily allows police to use excessive force against members of the press working at protests.

He is seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages. For jurisdictional reasons, an amended complaint was moved from state to federal court on Dec. 12, 2023.

“The police need to just be held accountable. I feel like the powers that be have already tried to do everything they could to get rid of me at the protests,” Lake told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “I refuse to back down. This needs to be on the record.”

When contacted, the Portland Police Bureau said it could not comment on ongoing litigation but referred the Tracker to the city attorney, Robert L. Taylor. Taylor did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

November 4, 2020

Independent photojournalist Mason Lake said he was pushed by law enforcement officers while covering demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 4, 2020.

Protests had been held in Portland on almost a nightly basis since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering BLM protests across the country.

There were two main demonstrations in Portland on Nov. 4, with one group calling for every vote cast in the U.S. presidential election to be counted and another expressing a combination of dismay with the electoral system and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. While the protests were organized separately, the two groups converged briefly at one point in the night. After some protesters smashed windows of downtown businesses, law enforcement officers declared the protests a “riot” at around 6:45 p.m.

Several law enforcement agencies were involved in policing the protests, with the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police all working together after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered a “unified command” to respond to protests. The Oregon National Guard was also activated to help with enforcement.

The initial round of shoving incidents reported occurred a little after 8 p.m. near the corner of Southwest Park Ave. and Southwest Washington Street, where a group of journalists got caught up in a push by law enforcement officers to clear protesters from the area.

Lake was documenting law enforcement officers arresting someone on the ground when he got shoved, he told the Tracker. A video of the incident published on Twitter by freelance journalist Sergio Olmos shows police and state officers pushing multiple protesters and apprehending someone on the ground. The footage captures a state trooper pushing Lake, wearing a helmet marked “press” on the back and sides, several times before finally pushing him to the ground about 25 seconds into the video.

“I was shoved to the ground,” Lake told the Tracker. “My hand and knuckle had a bruise on it, so I think a baton hit me.”

In response to the Tracker’s inquiries on this incident, Stephan Bomar, public affairs director of the Oregon Military Department, which oversees the National Guard, said in a statement: “It appears as though during this chaotic situation that all remained safe and secure.”

Since July, law enforcement officers from the PPB and federal agencies have been barred by court rulings from arresting, harming or impeding journalists or legal observers of the protests. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon didn’t include the state police or National Guard when it filed the cases.

The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing the continuing ACLU litigation. The Oregon State Police didn’t respond to a request for comment on the shoving incidents.

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