Reporter pushed by police while covering Portland protest

August 25, 2020

A reporter for the Davis Vanguard, a California-based nonprofit news organization, was pushed several times by Portland Police Bureau officers while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 25, 2020.

Roman Mendoza was documenting one of the many nightly protests held in downtown Portland in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25. 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.

Mendoza told the Tracker protesters had gathered that night at a different park than usual, with plans to march to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, which had emerged as a nightly flashpoint between protesters and federal agents in July. The protesters instead marched toward City Hall.

“I ended up behind the protest march, and I noticed that there were some police officers on a riot van that were making their way down the street behind the protesters,” Mendoza said. “I was just recording them, so I positioned myself on the sidewalk facing the street and I was just recording the officers as they were going by.”

One of the officers noticed Mendoza, came up to him and told him to move. Mendoza said he repeatedly identified himself as a journalist.

“I tell him I’m press and I’m just reporting. And he starts pushing me,” Mendoza said. “I keep telling him, ‘I’m press, I’m reporting, do you need to see my credentials? I’ll pull them out for you, whatever you need to see.’”

Mendoza said the officer pushed him half a block toward the end of the street before a group of protesters noticed what the officer was doing and started heckling him. When the officer turned his attention to the protesters, Mendoza said he made his way back to his original position, where the rest of the officers were staging.

Mendoza asked the other officers to identify the one who had pushed him, but the officers ignored him.

“As I was asking them to identify themselves, a sheriff who was with them pointed his pepper spray at me,” Mendoza said. “He didn’t deploy it, but it was clear that he was threatening me.”

Mendoza said he backed up a bit from the officers, and soon after they got back on the riot van and drove away.

Later that night, Mendoza said he was filming as officers arrested an individual. Police directed the members of the press who were present at the scene to move across the street and film from there. Mendoza said he didn’t comply with the officer’s direction, believing he was far enough away to not interfere with the officers’ actions.

“After a couple of minutes, they approached me and specifically moved me off the street, saying I couldn’t record there,” Mendoza said. “They grabbed me by my arm and just moved me across the street.”

Mendoza said he also asked that officer for his badge number but received no response.

The PPB declined to comment when emailed about this incident.

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

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