U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist shoved by Portland, Oregon, police during Breonna Taylor protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 23, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

Law enforcement at a September 2020 protest in Portland, Oregon, after a grand jury declined to prosecute Kentucky police for killing Breonna Taylor. Journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis was shoved by an officer at a Portland protest on Sept. 23.

November 1, 2020 - Update

Journalist joins civil rights suit against Portland, Oregon; later withdraws

Independent journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis joined a civil suit on Nov. 1, 2020, charging that the City of Portland, Oregon, violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities during Black Lives Matter protests earlier that year, according to court documents reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The civil rights suit was filed against Portland, surrounding Multnomah County and various law enforcement officials on behalf of four Oregonians with disabilities who either documented or participated in the protests. It accused law enforcement of assaulting the plaintiffs multiple times and of generally acting without regard for their disabilities.

Lewis was described in the suit as having photosensitive epilepsy and a connective tissue disorder that makes her susceptible to soft tissue tears and limits her ability to move quickly.

She told the Tracker that she was filming at a Portland protest in September 2020 over a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to prosecute police officers for shooting and killing Breonna Taylor. While Lewis was documenting a confrontation between an officer and a protester, another officer pushed her from the street to the sidewalk, causing her to stumble on the curb and tear soft tissue in her ankle.

In October 2021, the court approved a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, ruling that they had failed to prove that the city customarily violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities when responding to protests. The plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint, which did not include Lewis.

Lewis told the Tracker that she ultimately withdrew from the suit because of issues with her legal representation.

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].