U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Video journalist shoved, pepper-sprayed during 2020 Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 27, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

A portion of the complaint filed by journalist Mason Lake in June 2022 in which he alleges the Portland, Oregon, police infringed on his press freedom rights seven separate times. The case was moved to federal court in December 2023.

June 27, 2020

Independent video journalist Mason Lake is pressing charges after he said he was shoved, then pepper-sprayed, by a Portland, Oregon, police officer on June 27, 2020.

According to court documents, Lake alleges that while filming a protest, he stopped to help an unnamed individual who had fallen. A police officer directing crowds “physically grabbed and pushed” Lake and pepper-sprayed him in the face, the documents claim.

The incident caused “physical injuries including pain, burning sensations, as well as fear and embarrassment,” claimed Lake’s complaint. Lake posted video from the protest on social media.

Lake filed a lawsuit in June 2022 against the City of Portland and two police officers, identified as John Doe 1 and 2. In the complaint, Lake alleges that while covering protests in 2020 and 2021, Portland police in seven separate incidents shoved, pepper-sprayed, threatened, pinned, grabbed and punched him, and damaged his equipment.

He is seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages. For jurisdictional reasons, an amended complaint was moved from state to federal court on Dec. 12, 2023. Neither Lake nor his attorney responded to requests for comment.

The alleged assault took place against a backdrop of social justice protests around the country in the summer of 2020 following the police murder of George Floyd that May. In Portland, protests brought thousands to the streets continuously throughout that period.

When reached for comment, the Portland Police Bureau said they could not comment on ongoing litigation but referred the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker to the city attorney, Robert L. Taylor. Taylor did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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