U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Police grabs at journalist’s phone during Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 14, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 14, 2020

Garrison Davis, an independent journalist, said police attempted to grab his phone while he was filming a protest in Portland, Oregon, on the night of Aug. 14, 2020.

Portland had experienced regular protests since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On the evening of Aug. 14, protesters gathered in North Portland's Peninsula Park and began marching. According to The Oregonian, their intended destination was believed to be the Portland police union headquarters.

Over a loudspeaker, police can be heard declaring an unlawful assembly, saying that “paint bombs and other projectiles” had been thrown at officers. They also can be heard addressing the press and legal-rights observers, saying that they would adhere to a temporary restraining order and allow them to do their jobs so long as they moved off the roadway and didn’t interfere with officers.

In July, a U.S. district judge issued a temporary restraining order barring police in Portland from using physical force against, dispersing, arresting or threatening to arrest journalists and legal-rights observers.

That night, an officer tried to grab Davis' phone away from him as he recorded, the freelance videographer said.

In a video filmed sometime before midnight, a Portland police officer can be seen approaching Davis, telling him to “back off away from our van” and then moving his hand toward the journalist’s phone in an action Davis said was an attempt to grab the device. Davis repeatedly told the officer he was on the sidewalk and not in their way. He had previously shouted at officers telling him to move that he was with the press.

“Portland Police continuing to blatantly ignore the federal restraining order. An officer comes off of the riot van, approaches me, and grabs my phone” Davis tweeted.

Davis told the Tracker he felt that he and other journalists had been targeted that night.

“At this point I think they were mad at press because the reason why they keep getting in trouble is because the press is thoroughly documenting their crimes,” he said.

In a press release regarding the Aug. 14 protest, the Portland Police Bureau wrote that “several people with ‘press’ affixed to them shined flashlights in officers eyes.” A spokesperson for the PPB told the Tracker they were unable to comment on the incidents due to ongoing litigation.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents journalists assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd-control ammunition or tear gas or who had their equipment damaged in the course of reporting. Find all incidents related to Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests here.

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