Two photojournalists said they were shoved to the ground by police officers while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 4, 2020.
Nathan Howard, whose work has been published by Reuters, Getty Images and the Associated Press, said he was pushed to the ground by an officer. Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, whose work has been published by outlets including Reuters and Agence France-Presse, said another officer shoved him, causing him to land on top of Howard.
The photographers were documenting one of hundreds of demonstrations held across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.
Law enforcement officers in Portland have 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 ACLU suit led to a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, barring the Portland Police Bureau from harming or impeding journalists. Lewis-Rolland is a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit.
On Sept. 4 protesters gathered outside of the headquarters of the Portland Police Association, the union that represents city police officers. Police declared an unlawful assembly at 11:45 p.m., KATU reported.
Howard told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that police came out and started to make targeted arrests of people in the street. He said he was taking photographs of an arrest when an officer came toward him.
Howard said he put his hands up and told the officer multiple times that he was a member of the press and was backing up. As he repeated that he was backing up, he said the officer became more aggravated. Eventually the officer shoved him, he said, causing him to fall backwards. He said he landed against a metal street sign pole.
Howard said he was initially alright, and took advantage of his angle on the ground to try to photograph an arrest happening nearby.
Lewis-Rolland told the Tracker he was photographing an arrest across the street from the Portland Police Association building. An officer came up from behind him, grabbed him by the backpack, and threw him to the ground, he said.
In a video Lewis-Rolland posted on Twitter, a police dispersal announcement can be heard while two police officers hold down an individual. The image suddenly becomes blurry and a voice can be heard saying “get back.” For a few seconds, the camera is pointed up toward a street sign, then the image refocuses facing toward the pavement.
Howard couldn’t recall who landed on top of whom, but he said that in the process, his head was pushed back, hitting the metal street sign pole. He said the impact was jarring, and he needed to take a break for a few minutes.
Lewis-Rolland said he wasn’t injured, but was rattled.
“There's something unique about having someone physically throw you to the ground,” he said. “It feels very violating.”
Lewis-Rolland said he was wearing a helmet and backpack that were both marked “PRESS.” He also wore a reflective yellow vest and carried two cameras.
Howard said he was wearing a vest that identified him as press.
The PPB declined to comment on the incidents. The police department has declined to comment to the Tracker on other cases in Portland due to ongoing litigation.
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.