U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shoved, injured by Portland police while covering protest over Breonna Taylor grand jury decision

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 23, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 23, 2020

Independent videographer Melissa Lewis says she was shoved by local police officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 23, 2020.

Lewis was covering one of the many protests that have broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and others. 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 the city to agree to a preliminary injunction in July to not arrest, harm or impede the work of journalists or legal observers of the protests.

The Sept. 23 protest was called in response to a Kentucky grand jury’s decision that day to not prosecute Louisville police officers for shooting and killing Taylor.

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Portland outside the Multnomah County Justice Center, a focus of Portland protests because it houses a jail, courtrooms and a police station. According to a report in The Oregonian, sometime after 9 p.m., some protesters threw rocks at the windows to the Central Precinct station, located on the Second Avenue side of the Justice Center.

In response, Portland police declared the protest a riot and used crowd-control munitions on demonstrators. At around 10:30 p.m., a protester threw a Molotov cocktail at officers.

Lewis told the Tracker she was filming a confrontation between an officer and a protester on Broadway in downtown Portland. After she walked on the crosswalk to film, a police officer began to yell at her.

Video published by independent journalist Laura Jedeed at 10:55 p.m. captures Lewis, with the words “press” on her helmet walking backwards while an officer follows. Then, the officer pushes her to the ground.

“I reached the sidewalk and he shoved me over. My ankle caught the curb. I felt it pop and snap,” Lewis told the Tracker. “Medics were concerned I broke my ankle because it swelled, so I got evacuated to the ER.”

At Providence Portland Medical Center, Lewis learned her ankle didn’t break. But medical staff told her the officer’s push resulted in torn soft tissue in her ankle.

The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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