U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist pushed twice by police while covering a protest in Portland

Incident Details

August 6, 2020

A journalist who is a member of an independent press collective known as the 45th Absurdist Brigade was shoved twice by police while reporting on protests in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 6, 2020.

The journalist, who asked not to be named, was covering one of the many protests that broke out in Portland in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

Law enforcement officers in Portland have 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 ACLU suit led to the city agreeing to a preliminary injunction in July to not arrest, harm or impede the work of journalists or legal observers of the protests.

On the night of Aug. 6, the journalist was reporting on protests outside the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct when police began trying to clear the area, they told the Tracker.

Officers were moving people northeast, clearing an area toward Southeast Stark Street, the main thoroughfare, the journalist said. Walking backward alongside the police line, the journalist was filming the gap between the police and the protesters. While staying on the sidewalk, they saw officers start to “shove” members of the press, when they were suddenly pushed themselves.

“I was walking backwards and an officer was like, “Get back! Get back on the sidewalk!,’” they said, adding that the officer then “tried to slap my camera down.”

The journalist’s camera was tethered to their wrist, they said, so it just briefly fell out of their hands before they grabbed it again. But soon after, they were shoved again back toward the sidewalk, they said.

“Since I was already walking backwards when I got shoved, I just kind of went back on my back foot,” the journalist said. “And I just kind of stumbled back and got up, and continued walking, trying to make sure I didn't get trapped.”

A video the journalist posted on Twitter at 10:50 p.m. captures the shoving. The first push can be seen around 40 seconds in, and then the camera angle goes askew. Several seconds later, the journalist gets shoved again.

The shoving was captured from another angle by independent videographer Garrison Davis. “An officer tried to slap @45thabsurdist’s phone out of their hand, then when that failed an officer just pushed them around,” Davis tweeted.

The journalist wasn’t physically harmed, they said, and their equipment wasn’t damaged.

The PPB didn’t respond to a request for comment on this incident.

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