Social media journalist arrested while covering protests in Portland

September 28, 2020

Social media journalist Chris Khatami was arrested while covering protests in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 28, 2020. The journalist was held for several hours and charged with interfering with a peace officer and disorderly conduct.

That night, protesters gathered outside the Portland Police Union building in North Portland as part of ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice and police violence. Khatami hosts an entertainment show on the platform Twitch and has been documenting and livestreaming the city’s protests on social media for several months. He told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he was on North Lombard Street filming on his phone what had been a “very uneventful night.”

At around 11 p.m., Khatami said he was walking across an intersection and filming when he was grabbed from behind by police officers and told he was under arrest because the street had been declared off limits. A police statement said law enforcement declared the gathering an unlawful assembly after protesters started throwing objects at officers, according to news reports.

Khatami told the Tracker he had printed out papers that said “press” and taped them to his sleeves and vest. He said he also told the officers he was a member of the press. The officers asked if he was affiliated with any organization and Khatami told them he was an independent journalist, he said.

Since July, law enforcement officers from the Portland Police Bureau and federal agencies have been barred by court rulings from arresting, harming or impeding journalists or legal observers of the protests.

Despite identifying himself as a member of the media, the officers placed him in zip ties and put him in the back of a police van, he said. About an hour later, he and others arrested at the protests were taken to a police precinct in downtown Portland.

After being held for several hours, he was released early the next morning, Khatami said. He was one of 24 people charged with “Interfering with a Peace Officer” and “Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree,” according to government records. At an arraignment the next day, officials declined to prosecute him for the charges, Khatami said.

When asked for comment, a PPB Public Information Officer directed the Tracker to the city attorney's office. The city attorney's office did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

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

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