Portland Tribune journalist Zane Sparling said a police officer shoved him as he covered a rally in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 22, 2020.
Protests in the city had been held on almost a nightly basis since late May in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. Sparling was covering a pro-Trump rally that attracted counterprotesters. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
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.
At around 11 a.m. Sparling began covering the far-right rally at the Multnomah County Justice Center downtown. The rally attracted left-wing counterprotesters, and the two sides clashed throughout the day.
After several hours of coverage, Sparling was pushed by a police officer while he was filming Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, a well-known member of the Proud Boys, a far-right group. Sparling focused on Toese because there had been an active warrant out for his arrest over his alleged involvement in a beating in Seattle, he told the Tracker.
Footage taken and published by Sparling on Twitter shows Toese walking past PPB officers. About 10 seconds into the video, the camera goes askew as Sparling gets pushed. “Tiny Toese just walked past Portland police, they did not arrest him. Officer grabbed me by shirt and shoved,” Sparling tweeted.
Sparling said he was clearly identifiable as press because he was actively filming, though he doesn’t remember if his press identification was showing at the time.
“He grabbed on to my shirt and swung me in an orbit to move me to a different spot,” Sparling told the Tracker. “Lots of people were walking past these police officers, including someone with an active warrant. I don’t know why it was more interesting that I was walking past. I don’t know why I was the one that seemed to be the threat there. ”
The PPB has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case.