U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Videojournalist hit by bike police while covering Portland protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 27, 2021
Portland, Oregon
Case number
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?

A discarded shield calling for abolishing the Portland Police Bureau at a rally outside of a federal facility in Portland, Oregon, in January 2021. Journalist Mason Lake was assaulted by police while documenting another protest there a month later.

June 27, 2022 - Update

Oregon video journalist files suit over Portland police assaults

Independent video journalist Mason Lake filed a lawsuit in June 2022 against the City of Portland, Oregon, and two unnamed police officers over a series of police assaults in 2020 and 2021.

Lake alleges that while covering protests during that time, Portland police in seven separate incidents shoved, pepper-sprayed, threatened, pinned, grabbed and punched him, and damaged his equipment. Among the incidents was one in which he says a police officer slammed his bike into him on Feb. 27, 2021.

According to court documents, Lake alleges that the incidents caused “physical injury as well as fear” and that the city customarily allows police to use excessive force against members of the press working at protests.

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.

“The police need to just be held accountable. I feel like the powers that be have already tried to do everything they could to get rid of me at the protests,” Lake told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “I refuse to back down. This needs to be on the record.”

When contacted, the Portland Police Bureau said it could not comment on ongoing litigation but referred the Tracker to the city attorney, Robert L. Taylor. Taylor did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

February 27, 2021

Independent videojournalist Mason Lake was assaulted by Portland police while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Feb. 27, 2021.

According to KGW8, a Portland-based NBC affiliate, an estimated 150 people gathered in The Fields Park in Portland’s Pearl District to protest the treatment of undocumented people held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, Willamette Week reported. At the ICE field office, protesters spray-painted the boarded-up office with slogans such as “No Kids in Cages,” as well as the names of Black people killed by police in recent months.

In a statement released shortly after midnight on Feb. 28, the Portland Police Bureau called the protest “destructive,” noted damage to buildings and warned that perpetrators would be subject to detention, arrest or targeted with crowd-control devices such as tear gas.

Around 10:30 p.m. on the 27th, Lake said he was recording Portland police on bicycles as they pedaled quickly toward a crowd. One officer on a bike slammed into Lake, who was on foot with his camera, as seen at 0:08 in a video tweeted at 12:28 a.m. on Feb. 28 by independent journalist Melissa Lewis. Lake is hit by the officer, then surrounded by several officers on bikes, one of whom yells “Get off the street” at someone off camera. A voice can be heard yelling that Lake is press.

“You’ve just assaulted press. He was trying to get out of your fucking way,” the voice says.

In the video, Lake can be seen yelling at police as they close in around him. He continues arguing with them after he moves to the sidewalk, where he can be seen holding his camera and wearing large letters that say “PRESS” across his chest.

In an email interview with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Lake said the officer who slammed into him with a bike injured him. “His helmet slammed into my head, breaking skin.”

“He and other officers proceeded to hit my camera and shove me as I was encircled,” Lake told the Tracker. “I gestured at him and he hit my camera a second time.”

In a compilation video shared to YouTube, which included Lake’s own footage, he describes the incident in more detail. At around 0:37, he is audibly angry, yelling at the officers, “Keep hitting me, keep hitting me,” and in response to them telling him to move, he adds, “How am I gonna do it? You surrounded me.”

“Their justification for running me over was that I was ‘in the street,’” Lake told the Tracker. At 0:27 in the video, he yells at the officer, “You’ve been after me all night.” He later told the Tracker that he believes it was a targeted assault. He said that in addition to the PRESS marking on his chest, he had press credentials from the National Press Photographers Association, the nonprofit media cooperative Halospace Media and Boop Troop Eugene LLC, a live media outlet that covers protests and local events.

The PPB directed the Tracker to contact the City Attorney’s Office, which did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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].