U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videographer pushed, phone knocked from her hands

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 12, 2021
Portland, Oregon


Was the journalist targeted?
April 12, 2021

Independent videographer Melissa Lewis said she was targeted and pushed by Portland police while documenting a protest in northeast Portland, Oregon, on April 12, 2021.

According to KOIN News, Portland's CBS affiliate, demonstrators gathered in Laurelhurst Park to hold a vigil for Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man who was shot by a white police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, during a traffic stop. Wright’s death, on April 11, occurred as a former police officer in nearby Minneapolis was on trial in the death of George Floyd, rekindling a wave of protests against racial injustice and police brutality that had started nearly a year earlier.

Protesters marched to the Penumbra Kelly Building, the site of numerous previous demonstrations, where, according to Portland Police tweets, some members of the crowd smashed several windows and threw rocks, bottles, and other objects at officers. Police responded by deploying flashbang grenades, and the Portland Police Bureau eventually declared the scene a riot.

At 11:10 p.m., Lewis tweeted a video of a large group of Portland police officers pushing protesters in one direction. "Cops were VERY shove-y tonight," she wrote. " Not tolerant of walking backwards." As an officer is approaching her, as seen in the video, she says, "I'm moving as fast as I can," while recording and walking backwards, but he responds, "No, you're not. Turn around and move."

A few minutes later at 11:23 p.m., Lewis shares another video of the same scene, in which Lewis says the officer walks past her and says, "Melissa, stay still. Don't get in my way."

Lewis lets out a loud laugh, to which the officer responds by turning around and knocking her phone out of her hand. From the ground, the camera shows the officer and Lewis across from each other, at which point she picks up the phone.

"I don’t know that officer AT ALL,” Lewis told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “I was also on the sidewalk. My phone was knocked from my hands. Then another officer behind me continued to push me with his baton horizontally and into a tree.”

Since July, law enforcement officers from the PPB and federal agencies have been barred by court rulings from arresting, harming or impeding journalists or legal observers of the protests. The Portland Police Bureau has said it wouldn't comment on incidents involving journalists covering the protests, citing continuing litigation in a case brought by the ACLU. 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].