U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Photojournalist thrown to ground by law enforcement during Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 4, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
September 4, 2020

Photojournalist Mathieu Lewis-Rolland said a police officer shoved him, causing him to land on top of another journalist, while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Lewis-Rolland, whose work has been published by outlets including Reuters and Agence France-Presse, was documenting one of hundreds of demonstrations held across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.

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 to a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, barring the Portland Police Bureau from harming or impeding journalists. Lewis-Rolland is a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit.

On Sept. 4 protesters gathered outside of the headquarters of the Portland Police Association, the union that represents city police officers. Police declared an unlawful assembly at 11:45 p.m., KATU reported.

Lewis-Rolland told the Tracker he was photographing an arrest across the street from the Portland Police Association building. An officer came up from behind him, grabbed him by the backpack, and threw him to the ground, he said.

In a video Lewis-Rolland posted on Twitter, a police dispersal announcement can be heard while two police officers hold down an individual. The image suddenly becomes blurry and a voice can be heard saying “get back.” For a few seconds, the camera is pointed up toward a street sign, then the image refocuses facing toward the pavement.

Lewis-Rolland said he wasn’t injured, but was rattled.

“There's something unique about having someone physically throw you to the ground,” he said. “It feels very violating.”

Lewis-Rolland said he was wearing a helmet and backpack that were both marked “PRESS.” He also wore a reflective yellow vest and carried two cameras.

The PPB declined to comment on the incidents. The police department has declined to comment to the Tracker on other cases in Portland due to ongoing litigation.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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