Independent journalists Griffin Malone and Alissa Azar told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker they were assaulted by Portland police while covering protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, on July 16, 2020.
The protests were among many demonstrations that broke out across the country in response to police violence following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis.
Law enforcement officers in Portland had targeted journalists since the outbreak of the demonstrations, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. The case resulted in a temporary restraining order on July 2 barring the Portland police from harming or impeding journalists, which was expanded to apply the ban to federal agents later that month.
Journalist Griffin Malone — who says his work has appeared on PBS, ABC and The Associated Press — told the Tracker he and Azar were reporting outside the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department Office when deputies rushed out of the building to disperse the crowd.
Twenty minutes after the initial rush and a handful of arrests, Malone said he was standing with independent journalist Alissa Azar and two National Lawyers Guild observers when the deputies rushed out of the sheriff’s office again. Amid the rush, officers pushed Azar and kicked her ankle, according to Malone.
Azar told the Tracker that she was also hit on the ankle by a flash-bang grenade, which drew blood. She also said she had bruises across her legs from being hit with crowd-control munitions.
Azar told the Tracker she was wearing a vest and helmet, both labeled with press markings, as well as a credential from Pacific Northwest Press Corps, which describes itself as an association of independent journalists covering ongoing protests in Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. Malone told the Tracker he routinely wears press identification, a yellow vest and a helmet marked “PRESS” to identify himself while covering protests.
Malone said he attempted to help Azar walk as deputies continued pushing the crowd back, when an officer deliberately shoved him. Moments later, he felt a pain in his leg.
“I’m not sure what the pain was from,” Malone said. “Someone next to me said they saw it was [a deputy’s] baton, but in the videos that I’ve seen you can’t really see clearly what happened so I’m not sure.”
Malone said a deputy continued shoving Malone, Azar and the lawyers guild observers until he was replaced by a second officer, who Malone said was “a bit more respectful of the press.”
When reached for comment in the fall of 2020, the Portland Police Bureau told the Tracker it wouldn’t comment on specific incidents, citing continuing litigation in the ACLU case. Then in early 2021, PPB spokesman Derek Carmon said the department was committed to upholding civil rights for all citizens, including by requiring officers to report any use of force for review. The PPB did not respond to a request for comment about these specific incidents as of press time.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.
This content originally appeared on U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents and was authored by U.S. Press Freedom Tracker: All Incidents.