U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist covering Portland protest struck by individual

Incident Details

April 16, 2021

Independent journalist Justin Yau said he was attacked and shoved to the ground by an unidentified individual while covering a protest at Lents Park in Portland, Oregon, on April 16, 2021.

According to Willamette Week, Portland police fatally shot a man in the park that morning after receiving reports of a man pointing a gun. Demonstrators immediately gathered near the scene, yelling “shame on you," at police, which led police to declare an unlawful assembly shortly before noon, according to the article.

Yau, who has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Portland Mercury, ProPublica and Oregon Public Broadcasting, said at around 2 p.m., he was attacked by an individual while photographing the protest. Yau said he had a press credential issued by Willamette Week, which he was then on assignment for, clipped to his collar.

"I was standing and talking to a colleague, when the attacker shoved me to the ground,” Yau told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “It was an unprovoked surprise attack. The attacker pushed my head while I was on the ground & tried to take my cameras, but was unsuccessful."

Yau said he didn’t know the person, and that accomplices stood by yelling phrases like “Don’t take pictures!” and stopping his colleague from protecting him.

Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling tweeted two photographs of the scene, writing that Yau was "bleeding after being shoved to the ground, hit multiple times."

Yau said the attacker grabbed his glasses, scratching his face in the process, and broke the hood of his 18-25-millimeter lens during the scuffle. Sparling's photograph also shows a pair of broken glasses on the ground.

“The injuries were minimal, [but] breaking my glasses made work really difficult for the rest of the day,” he told the Tracker.

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