U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Portland-based independent photojournalist assaulted and arrested

Incident Details

August 6, 2020

Portland police assaulted and arrested Independent photojournalist Maranie Staab as she covered protests in downtown Portland on Aug. 6, 2020, according to Staab. Staab, whose photos of the 2020 protests in Portland have been published by Reuters, The New Yorker and Agence France-Presse, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was held overnight at the Multnomah County Detention Center and released the next morning. Her charges of harassment and interfering with a police officer have been dropped.

On the night of Aug. 6, Staab said she was near the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct station. Shortly before 10 p.m., police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly due to vandalism and property destruction. The night before, police had declared a protest there a riot. During the Aug. 6 protest, Staab said Portland police officers had formed a line and started to run towards the protesters. According to Staab, some journalists were caught up with the protestors as officers rushed toward them. Along with other members of the press, Staab said, she was being pushed along on the sidewalk.

Staab said that while walking backwards with a camera in each hand, she was pushed to the ground by a police officer. Staab said she had “press” written on her front and back in white text.

“I tried to get up, he pushed me down a second time,” Staab told the Tracker. When she tried to get up again, Staab said, “He pushed me down a third time and then pulled me off of the sidewalk into the street.” Staab said that the officer then handcuffed and arrested her.

In a video shared in a tweet by freelance journalist Justin Yau, police officers can be seen physically blocking the area and using flashlights to prevent other journalists and legal observers from clearly filming Staab’s arrest. According to Yau’s tweet, the arrest took place at 10:20 p.m.

Staab said police transported her in a van to the Multnomah County Detention Center where she was processed and charged with harassment and interfering with a police officer. According to the police report of the arrest, Staab resisted arrest and physically pushed the officer. Staab has denied the police account and said she had “cooperated in full.”

At the detention center, Staab said, the officers took her phone, camera, gas mask and hat when she was arrested, but returned her belongings the next day. Although she was able to keep her phone with her, Staab said the phone screen cracked when she was slammed to the ground. Staab said she was released at 4 a.m. on Aug. 7. She said the charges against her were later dropped.

In July, a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction barring Portland police officers from dispersing, arresting or impeding journalists covering the city’s nightly protests, which began in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25.

The Portland Police Bureau has said it would not comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation.

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