PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — At least two Portland-based reporters were injured while covering protests against police brutality over the weekend.
Oregonian journalist Beth Nakamura recounted police slamming her with a baton Friday while the next night, Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling said he was shoved into a wall by an officer and hit by a crowd control munition, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The reporters said they identified themselves to police as press. In both incidents, the reporters were told by police, in what the journalists described as profanity-laced responses, that their press credentials did not matter.
The incidents against reporters were the first publicly questioned by the mayor since the uprising began over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On Twitter Monday, Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler called Nakamura’s account of being attacked “extremely concerning.”
“Journalists need to be able to cover the protests safely,” Wheeler said. “I know (the Portland Police Bureau) works hard to protect the rights of our press, but there are alarming incidents that need to be addressed.”
Portland City Council members Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty have also expressed concerns.
A petition circulated by Portland-based reporters asks the mayor’s office to stop the police bureau he oversees from assaulting journalists and warns of a “chilling effect on coverage and debate about PPB’s use of force” if the violence continues.
On Sunday, police released a video in which their lead spokesperson said all crowd members had to follow orders to disperse, even journalists.
Kyu Ho Youm, who holds the Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, said if journalists “are treated as demonstrators, that’s a terrible mistake on the part of police.”