U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter repeatedly shoved by police officers while covering protests in Portland

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 30, 2020
Location
Portland, Oregon
Case number
OJD:20-cv-23349
Case Status
Settled
Type of case
Class Action

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Unknown
May 6, 2022 - Update

Reporter reaches settlement agreement with City of Portland

Robert Evans, a journalist and iHeartRadio podcast host, reached a settlement with the City of Portland on May 6, 2022, bringing an end to the class-action lawsuit.

Evans was repeatedly shoved by police officers and shot with a crowd-control munition while reporting on Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, according to the suit.

Jane Moisan, the attorney representing Evans and the other two named plaintiffs, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she filed the case in state court in order to raise the issue of officers’ use of force against crowds and establish those protections under state law. However, Moisan said, the case was quickly removed to federal court where it sat for months before it was remanded back to the Multnomah County Circuit Court in December 2020.

“By that time the protests had tapered off and really our purpose in going after the case in the first place had just been made more or less moot,” Moisan said. “We were really looking at: Where is it in state law that ever even justifies the use of force against a crowd? It’s more set forth in federal law than state law. I think that’s a good question to be looking at in general, we just got kind of outplayed on this one.”

Evans and one of the other plaintiffs, protester Sadie Oliver-Grey, reached a settlement agreement with the city for $5,000 each, the maximum that can be awarded before the payment requires City Council approval, Moisan said. Evans’ colleague Bea Lake, who was arrested while documenting protests on June 7, voluntarily dismissed her claims in order to file a federal civil lawsuit.

According to court records reviewed by the Tracker, Evans and city attorneys filed a joint motion to accept their proposed settlement agreement on May 6, 2022. The case was formally dismissed on July 18.

June 30, 2020

Robert Evans, a journalist and iHeartRadio podcast host, was repeatedly shoved by police officers in Portland, Oregon, while reporting on protests on June 30, 2020, according to a lawsuit filed against the city.

Protests broke out in Portland and across the United States in response to police violence and the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white officer in Minneapolis.

On Aug. 27, Evans, with colleague Bea Lake, who was arrested while documenting protests on June 7, and another plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Portland. The complaint said that on June 30, Evans was covering a group of protesters as they marched to the Portland Police Association building where officers in riot gear were already stationed. About a half hour later, the demonstration was declared an unlawful assembly. Police officers ordered the crowd to disperse and started removing individuals from the street and sidewalk before firing riot control agents.

Evans, who did not respond to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s request for comment, was wearing a helmet labeled “PRESS” and press credentials and was repeatedly shoved by police officers as he tried to follow their orders. He stated in the complaint that he was “unable to fully document clashes and police conduct because he was forced off to the side and unable to find a reliably safe place for him to film.”

On June 28, the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Portland and its law enforcement. The city later agreed to a preliminary injunction to not arrest, harm, or impede working journalists or legal observers at protests.

The Portland Police Bureau has said it wouldn’t comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protest, citing ongoing litigation.

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