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.