Journalist shoved, threatened by armed individual at pro-police rally in Portland

November 19, 2020

Videographer Garrison Davis was shoved by armed pro-police demonstrators, including one who bumped the journalist’s smartphone with a rifle butt while he covered a Nov. 19, 2020, rally in downtown Portland, Oregon, the journalist tweeted and told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Protests had been held In Portland on almost a nightly basis since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

Tensions also were high in Portland and cities throughout the U.S. in the wake of President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.

Davis worked as an independent journalist throughout much of the unrest and in November began co-hosting “Uprising: A Guide From Portland,” a podcast focusing on protests in Portland, for iHeartRadio.

On Nov. 19, about 30 people gathered in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center for a “Back the Blue” rally, Davis told the Tracker. He tweeted that participants expressed messages of support for Trump, law enforcement and the Second Amendment, and espoused conspiracy theories about vaccines for COVID-19 and other topics.

He posted that the event drew counterprotesters who gathered on the opposite side of South Third Avenue from the rally. Members of the opposing groups yelled taunts across the street at each other and eventually counterprotesters crossed the divide to the right-wing rally to confront participants.

“A few of the antifascist counter demonstrators cross the street,” Davis wrote in a Twitter post. “Members of the back the blue crowd start shoving people around.”

Davis recorded a Back the Blue protester wearing a gas mask and a camouflage helmet and vest confronting him and demanding that he move away from the rally.

“I will take that fucking camera. Back up,” the individual said before shoving Davis, which was captured in a video that Davis posted at about 2 p.m. Davis told the Tracker that the assailant pushed him with a metal rod.

“The back the blue/Maga crowd continue to shove me around. I am very clearly marked press,” Davis wrote in the Twitter thread.

Davis also captured footage of the same assailant extending the stock on a rifle and clipping the weapon to his vest. Davis gets into another scuffle with that individual, who at one point bumps the journalist’s smartphone with the butt of his rifle.

“I don’t like you. Get the fuck out of here,” the assailant says to Davis.

Davis and reporter Sergio Olmos, who reported on the event for Oregon Public Broadcasting, captured footage of police officers taking the armed assailant into custody. It isn’t clear whether officers issued a citation to the individual, whom officers released, as shown in footage that Olmos posted to Twitter. The person returned to the rally without his rifle.

A Portland Police Bureau spokesperson was unable to confirm or deny if officers arrested the armed individual or issued a citation.

Davis told the Tracker he spent about two hours covering the rally and that several different protesters shoved and threatened him during his time there. He captured footage of one individual carrying a shield trying to shove the journalist out of the area.

“Get off the sidewalk,” the individual says to Davis.

In another exchange, an individual wearing a purple hoodie and a black face mask approaches Davis and demands that he back away from the rally.

“Get your ass back, motherfucker. Step back, dude,” the individual said to Davis.

“You’re not the police, you can’t move me,” Davis replied. “You’re not the cops.”

The demonstration culminated with shoving matches between members of the opposing groups, and members of both groups deploying pepper spray.

The Portland Police Bureau didn’t respond to a request for information about any arrests or citations issued to anyone involved with the rally or the counterprotest.

Olmos posted a video of an officer writing a citation for at least one individual after officers told people, including Davis, that they would be cited for standing in the street. Davis didn’t receive a citation, he told the Tracker.

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

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