Researcher documenting Portland protests shoved by police

April 12, 2021

Independent researcher and scientist Juniper Simonis said a Portland police officer shoved them in the chest as they covered a protest in Portland, Oregon, on April 12, 2021.

Simonis said they have been publishing information for several months about law enforcement’s use of chemical irritants at protests on Twitter, for a research and activist group called the Chemical Weapons Research Consortium, and with other outlets.

According to local CBS-affiliate KOIN6, demonstrators gathered outside the Penumbra Kelly Building in Northeast Portland as a response to the police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot by an officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Police declared the gathering a riot after protesters set fires and threw rocks, pieces of concrete, bottles and bricks. Officers responded with flash-bang grenades, tear gas and other crowd-control munitions.

Simonis said they were walking around and taking pictures of the officers at the scene when "at some point, they [officers] decide that they will brutalize the protesters west on Burnside. They roll up with a dozen vehicles and I counted," Simonis told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. "A whole bunch of officers jump off of riot vans and bull rush people. I was documenting them coming off and running."

At 10:20 p.m., Simonis said they were standing on the sidewalk and photographing when an officer comes up to them and "uses a 40mm rifle to shove my chest, while I have press credentials on my chest." Simonis said they were visibly displaying a press badge, a card they made that had their photograph with the publications they write for listed and the word “PRESS” in large letters. Simonis also was carrying a DSLR camera.

Law enforcement officers in Portland had targeted journalists since the outbreak of the demonstrations last June, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The city agreed to a preliminary injunction last July to not to arrest or harm any journalists or legal observers of the protests or impede their work.

The Portland Police Bureau has repeatedly said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

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

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