U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist struck with baton by sheriff’s deputies at Portland, Oregon, protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 9, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

Paint thrown at a police precinct sign during Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, in August 2020. Journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis told the Tracker she was struck in the ribs with a baton by sheriff’s deputies at a protest on Aug. 9.

August 9, 2020

Independent journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis was shoved and struck in the ribs with a baton by sheriff’s deputies in Portland, Oregon, while documenting a Black Lives Matter protest on Aug. 9, 2020.

The protest was one of the many that broke out across the U.S. that year in response to police violence and in support of the BLM movement following the murder of George Floyd. As the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented, an unprecedented number of journalists were assaulted and arrested at these protests, including in Oregon, where the ACLU later filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of journalists and legal observers who were targeted and attacked by police.

Lewis joined a separate civil suit on Nov. 1, 2020, charging that the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and various law enforcement officials violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities during BLM protests that year.

Lewis and three other Oregonians with disabilities who either documented or participated in the protests accused law enforcement of assaulting them multiple times and of generally acting without regard for their disabilities. Lewis has photosensitive epilepsy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that increases the risk of injury and makes it difficult for her to move quickly.

In the complaint, Lewis describes being forcibly removed by sheriff’s deputies from the area outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland at the Aug. 9 protest. The deputies screamed at members of the press and protesters to clear a path to the parking lot, according to the complaint, striking and pushing them with batons. Lewis says that despite complying with deputies’ directions, she was pulled by the backpack, shoved in the shoulders and struck in the ribs with a baton for not moving quickly enough, then told to stop filming.

In October 2021, the court approved a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims in the lawsuit, 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.

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