Portland journalists risk injury while covering protests
As Portland's prolonged protests enter their second week, local journalists are reporting on their own injuries as they document scenes of peaceful marches — and chaotic street warfare.
One reporter, Cory Elia, said he sought treatment at a hospital after being hit by authorities while covering a demonstration by bike just before midnight Tuesday, June 2. He said he couldn't see during the altercation due to tear gas exposure, which caused him to throw up.
"The male cop struck me midback with an elbow or baton, and I went head first into the wall," said Elia, who has more than 100 bylines in a variety of publications. "That caused me to fall down on my bike, and I took the handlebars to my ribs."
I saw this on reddit tonight and felt it should be shared. Thank you to the Redditor who recorded this and I truly hope this journalist is okay. Hearing the screams from him in the background is truly terrifying. #PortlandProtests pic.twitter.com/0xrmdnYpmF— PB (@Billings29James) June 3, 2020
Elia said he was posting live videos from his phone near the 7-Eleven at Southwest Taylor Street and Fourth Avenue when a male officer and a female officer started pushing him. Elia said he moved to a nearby parking garage, where he was hit again, causing his head to hit the facility's concrete wall. He said the male officer kicked him again while he was down.
Photos posted of Elia that night showed he was wearing a press badge.
"The officers throwing me into the wall and manhandling me — it was uncalled for," Elia said. "I'm a journalist, I identified myself. That's not right."
Elia, 31, has a radio show on KBOO and has written for Street Roots, Village Portland and several publications at Portland State University, where he serves on the student media board.
A Portland Police Bureau spokesman who reviewed video footage of the incident provided by the Tribune said he was "unable to find what you are suggesting," adding that police declared an unlawful assembly that night. The incident has now been referred to the Independent Police Review board.
"It can be challenging to find press credentials during a dynamic event," said the police spokesman, Sgt. Michael Roberts. "I will ask our media partners to respect the declaration of an unlawful assembly and to please leave the area."
Police have repeatedly called for journalists to leave the streets just when clashes between rallygoers and officers ratchet up. In an email titled "URGENT MESSAGE" sent to local media around 11:30 p.m. June 5, Lt. Tina Jones warned reporters it was unsafe to remain in the area.
Freelance journalist Sergio Olmos posted footage later that night showing him being shoved by police. The video has been viewed 70,000 times.
This reporter is shoved by police, I try to vocalize my moments and tell police officer Iâ€™m behind him and blocked. pic.twitter.com/QOeJSGooyP— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) June 6, 2020
The Oregon chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has condemned such orders as unlawful restrictions on the free press.
"This behavior against professionals who work tirelessly to inform and educate the public is unacceptable and intolerable," SPJ Oregon said. "Journalists should have the freedom to gather news without fear of violence or retaliation as is protected under the First Amendment."
Portland City Hall does not issue official press accreditation to journalists, though most local outlets provide their employees with lanyards or branded clothing.
More than a few journalists have been tear gassed while covering the Portland demonstrations, which were spurred by the death of George Floyd and have brought matters of race and policing into sharp focus across the U.S., and around the world.
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