U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist tackled twice by police officer at protest in Portland, Oregon

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 6, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

Police at a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 6, 2020, where journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis was tackled twice to the ground by an officer while documenting the protest.

September 6, 2020

Independent journalist Melissa “Claudio” Lewis was tackled twice in a row by a police officer in Portland, Oregon, while documenting a Black Lives Matter protest on Sept. 6, 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 federal and city law enforcement refusing for several hours to allow journalists and protesters to leave Portland’s Ventura Park, where the Sept. 6 protest began. At around 1 a.m., the complaint says, the Portland police announced that the park had closed three hours earlier and charged at full speed at protesters, medics and members of the press.

As Lewis began to leave the park, an officer tackled her to the ground, then tackled her again after she got up and started to move away from him. Lewis went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with whiplash and contusions on her shoulder blade, knees and thorax, the complaint says.

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].