Independent journalist receives $40,000 to settle lawsuit stemming from arrest, assaults at protests in 2020
According to a settlement notice filed on July 29, 2022, independent journalists Lesley McLam and Cory Elia were collectively paid $90,000 to settle their joint lawsuit against the City of Portland, the state and multiple law enforcement officers.
The pair reached a settlement with the City of Portland on April 28, wherein the city agreed to pay $55,000. The settlement agreement submitted in July revealed that Multnomah County and the State of Oregon agreed to pay $15,000 and $20,000, respectively, toward the total settlement.
According to the filing, McLam was issued $40,000 total, and Elia $50,000.
City of Portland pays two journalists $55,000 to settle lawsuit stemming from arrests, assaults at protests in 2020
Independent journalists Lesley McLam and Cory Elia reached a settlement agreement with the City of Portland during a videoconference on April 26, 2022, according to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Both McLam and Elia were covering protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for KBOO Community Radio and Village Portland in the summer of 2020. The journalists were assaulted on multiple occasions, and the pair were arrested on June 30.
McLam and Elia filed a civil lawsuit against the city, the state and multiple law enforcement officers on July 8, citing multiple press freedom violations against the journalists. The Oregonian reported that the city agreed to pay $55,000 to settle the lawsuit after an investigation of their claims found that the city risked being found liable if the case went to trial.
According to court records, District Court Judge Michael Simon dismissed the case on April 28, 2022, granting the parties 60 days to comply with the agreement.
Lesley McLam, host of a KBOO podcast, was violently grabbed and shoved by police while covering demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, on June 4, 2020, according to her ongoing lawsuit against the city and Mayor Ted Wheeler, and other law enforcement officers.
McLam, who did not respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s request for comment, was covering the protests that broke out in Portland and across the country in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
McLam filed a civil lawsuit, along with her colleague Cory Elia, against the city and multiple law enforcement officers on July 8. The lawsuit cites multiple press freedom violations against both journalists.
According to the complaint, McLam was covering the protesters that had gathered in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center when she saw a group of individuals near a dumpster fire about a half block away. At the time, McLam was wearing a black baseball cap with white lettering that identified her as “PRESS.” Her backpack was also labeled “MEDIA” and she had prominently displayed press credentials.
McLam started filming the fire with her cellphone and narrating the events when police officers in riot gear arrived and announced the street was closed. According to the complaint, McLam continued filming but moved to the sidewalk, allowing space for people and officers to pass.
The complaint said McLam was filming when an officer approached her. She identified herself as a member of the press while displaying her credentials when the officer violently grabbed McLam by the throat. She was then shoved backward by that officer and two others.
On June 28, the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Portland and its law enforcement. The city later agreed to a preliminary injunction to not arrest, harm, or impede working journalists or legal observers at protests.
The Portland Police Bureau has said it wouldn’t comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protest, citing ongoing litigation.