U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shoved by law enforcement officers while covering Portland protests

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 27, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 27, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Sergio Olmos was pushed by an officer into a tree, according to his social media posts, while he was covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, early on the morning of Sept. 27, 2020.

Olmos was documenting one of the many protests that had been ongoing for months in downtown Portland and across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. 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 a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, barring the Portland Police Bureau from harming or impeding journalists. Olmos provided a declaration in support of the class-action lawsuit involving a previous incident.

On Sept. 26, a rally organized by the Proud Boys far-right extremist group drew some 800 people to Portland, while at least 1,000 counterprotesters gathered nearby, The Oregonian reported. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had declared a state of emergency ahead of the rally, putting officers from the Portland Police Bureau, Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office under a unified command. After those protests ended, left-leaning demonstrators gathered downtown later that night, according to The Oregonian, and police declared an “unlawful assembly” around 11:40 p.m.

Videos posted on social media into early the morning of Sept. 27 show police pushing many people who were marked as “press.

Olmos captured footage of officers pushing journalists. He tweeted a video at 12:24 a.m. showing police officers pushing a crowd up a street, writing that OSP and PPB officers were pushing journalists, protesters and legal observers with batons.

Immediately after, he tweeted, “This reporter is pushed into a tree.”

The video posted with the tweet shows police pressing people along a street. An officer in riot gear can be seen pushing the back of someone with a camera in a vest labeled “press.” The Tracker couldn’t identify the journalist.

Then another officer can be heard in the video saying, “Go, go, go, get moving!” After Olmos replies, “I’m press,” the camera abruptly shakes and continues to record as it hits the ground, looking up the trunk of a tree. When Olmos leans over to pick up the device, his black vest, labeled with “press” in white letters, is visible.

Olmos didn’t respond to a request for comment.

OPB news director Anna Griffin retweeted Olmos’ video, noting that the enforcement actions against a journalist violated the temporary restraining order in the ACLU case. “I’d also love to hear elected officials explain why a reporter from my organization was subject to violence at the hands of law enforcement when judges have made it very clear this is not acceptable,” she wrote.

Afterwards, the ACLU called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate police treatment of journalists, The Oregonian reported.

Gov. Brown tweeted on Sept. 27 that she asked the individual law enforcement agencies to investigate any allegations about the use of force against members of the press or public. In a statement on behalf of the three agencies, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said it was aware that video had been taken of several incidents involving force, which would be reviewed to determine whether any officers violated law enforcement policies, according to The Oregonian.

A spokesperson for the PPB declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. A spokesperson for the OSP said they weren’t aware of the incidents.

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