Journalists shoved by law enforcement officers while covering overlapping protests

November 4, 2020

Two independent journalists said they were pushed by law enforcement officers in separate incidents while covering demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 4, 2020.

Garrison Davis and Bethany Kerley were documenting two protests. One group was calling for every vote cast in the U.S. presidential election to be counted, while another expressed a combination of dismay with the electoral system and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Protests had been held in Portland on almost a nightly basis since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering BLM protests across the country.

While the protests were organized separately, the two groups converged briefly at one point in the night. After some of the protesters in the election-focused group smashed windows of downtown businesses, law enforcement officers declared the protests a “riot” around 6:45 p.m.

Several law enforcement agencies were involved in policing the protests, with the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police all working together after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered a “unified command” to respond to protests. The Oregon National Guard was also activated to help with enforcement.

At around 7:20 p.m., Davis posted footage on Twitter of law enforcement officers tackling someone in the Pearl District downtown.

When Davis crossed the street to film the arrest, state troopers officers “arrived and decided to push people out of the area,” he told the Tracker, adding that he was pushed as well. Throughout the night, law enforcement officers pushed him four times, he said.

“They were using their batons [to push people],” said Davis, who was wearing a helmet with the words “press” on it as well as a press pass.

About an hour later, around 8:15 p.m., Kerley encountered a line of law enforcement officers on a street corner in the Pearl District. Footage of the incident, which Kerley filmed and provided to the Tracker, shows officers using their batons to shove protesters and members of the press back. Kerley was shoved multiple times by a state trooper and pushed up against a boarded-up window.

“I got thrown up against a window and pushed into other people multiple times by the officers,” Kerley tweeted after the incident.

Since July, law enforcement officers from the PPB and federal agencies have been barred by court rulings from arresting, harming or impeding journalists or legal observers of the protests. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon didn’t include the OSP when it filed the cases. But the rulings should also apply to state police, said Matthew Borden, a partner at BraunHagey & Borden LLP who is cooperating counsel with the ACLU on the case. He told the Tracker that the “plaintiffs will likely seek relief if OSP refuses to agree not to target or disperse journalists and legal observers."

The OSP declined to comment on the shoving incidents. 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 catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

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