U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Police shove journalist during Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 14, 2020
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
August 14, 2020

Independent journalist Brian Conley said he was shoved by police during 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.

Conley said that later that night he was pushed by a Portland police officer clearing a street in North Portland. On Twitter, he wrote that he and legal-rights observers had been pushed by a police officer at 11:45 p.m. for not walking fast enough. The officer “then struck me hard enough to knock the light from my camera. There was nowhere to go because too many people were in front of us,” he added.

In a video shot by freelance journalist Justin Yau, officers can be seen pushing people with batons, telling them to walk down the street faster. At one point, Conley can be seen turning around to film officers as he walks backwards using a camera with a light mounted on top of it. A voice can be heard saying “stop shining this light in my eyes” as one officer’s hand reaches out towards Conley’s camera.

“I was walking. I was not on the street. I was on the sidewalk,” Conley told the Tracker. “There was a mass of people in front of me. I really couldn’t go any faster” unless he stopped filming, he added.

Conley said the light mounted on his camera was knocked to the ground and retrieved by another journalist. It was undamaged.

At the time, he was wearing body armor marked “press” as well as a gas mask and a helmet. He said he had verbally identified himself as press as well, adding he believes the officer knew he was a member of the media.

“He was already kind of pushing me more than he should have been and there was nowhere for me to go,” he said. “I wasn’t a danger to him.”

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].