U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter says she was pushed by sheriffs during Portland protest

Incident Details

August 16, 2020

Journalist Melissa Lewis said she was pushed by law enforcement officers while she was covering demonstrations in downtown Portland on Aug. 16, 2020.

Lewis was covering one of the many protests that have broken out across the U.S. in response to police violence and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the May 25 death of George Floyd. 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 on June 28 by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The ACLU lawsuit resulted in a temporary restraining order against the Portland Police Bureau and other law enforcement agencies working with the Portland police, and eventually led to a preliminary injunction in July barring the police from harming or impeding journalists and legal observers.

Lewis, an independent journalist who at the time was documenting Portland protests for Cascadianphotog Media, was also covering law enforcement officers stationed outside the Central Precinct. Lewis was filming on the corner of Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Main Street, just north of the precinct.

Lewis’ livestream of the downtown Portland protest was published on Twitter at 10:36 p.m. At about 48 minutes into the video, the livestream captures more than a dozen officers advancing on Lewis and other journalists from multiple sides. Lewis can be seen in the video wearing a helmet with “press” on it. As officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office walk aggressively toward Lewis, she can be heard asking “Where would you like me to go, the street or the sidewalk?” A voice is then heard saying, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”

As Lewis says she’s “trying” to comply with the sheriffs’ directions, one officer appears to push her with a baton.

In an interview, Lewis said that Portland Police Bureau officers and Multnomah County Sheriff’s officers were giving her contradictory directions while advancing on her.

“The officers said get on the sidewalk and the sheriffs said get off the sidewalk. I was obeying PPB’s orders,” she said, referring to the Portland Police Bureau. “As a result I got pulled back from the backpack and batoned in the ribs by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.”

Lewis said she later went to a hospital. “As the adrenaline wore off, it really hurt. I wanted to go and get an X-ray on my ribs,” she said. “They were bruised, not broken, but it hurt to inhale.”

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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