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Portland Activists work to block journalists from full, accurate coverage of occupation outside ‘red house’ in N. Portland


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Journalists attempting to cover the activist-led occupation along a blocks-long stretch of North Portland have been repeatedly intimidated and, in some cases, roughed up by protesters.

A local television news team and a freelance photographer for national outlets are among those to detail such encounters during the anti-eviction demonstration over the so-called “Red House on Mississippi,” where a Black and Indigenous family has lived for decades.

Photographers for The Oregonian/OregonLive also documented hate speech and rough treatment directed at them while at the site.

Members of the media say the threat of expulsion from public sidewalks and streets and signals they could be subjected to physical harm has made it difficult to provide the public with a full account of the ongoing occupation, which entered its fourth day Friday and has generated national and international attention.

The unique blockade, imposed through force and fear, marks the latest challenges for the reporters and photographers who have faced a verbal and at times physical fusillade from police — and sometimes protesters — as they’ve worked to document months of racial justice demonstrations in Portland.

“It’s pure insanity to keep the media from working in a public space,” said Alex Milan Tracy, a longtime freelance photojournalist who was subjected to threats for documenting police and protester action near the house.

The problems for reporters began almost as soon as demonstrators on Tuesday clashed with sheriff’s deputies and police, who had come to serve an eviction notice and help secure the property.

Police and contractors, working on behalf of the company that has owned the home since an October 2018 foreclosure auction, started to erect barricades around the Kinney family home on North Mississippi Avenue.

Tracy, whose protest coverage regularly appears in national and international publications, captured some of the tense confrontation and published video to Twitter.

Since then, he said he’s received dozens of menacing text messages, emails and phone calls, demanding he remove the videos, which show the faces and other identifiable characteristics of some of the demonstrators who pitched rocks and other projectiles at police.

Some threats promised physical harm.

Tracy said they have prompted him to think strategically about whether and how he’ll continue to document the events, which center on concerns about gentrification and the rights of Black and Indigenous residents of majority white Portland.

The activist group PNW Youth Liberation Front set forth a rationale for limits on journalists in a tweet Thursday. “The space at the Red House is an active eviction blockade,” it said. “If you enter that space not to defend the Kinney family, but to livestream or film the risks that others are taking for your personal gain, then you are a guest. If you aren’t respectful, you will be an unwelcome one.

Hours after police retreated from the area Tuesday morning, several masked demonstrators surrounded KATU television journalists Genevieve Reaume and Ric Peavyhouse as they entered the barricaded zone to interview occupants.

Video shows the demonstrators used umbrellas to block the reporters from filming and made multiple verbal threats.

One of them knocked Reaume’s phone from her hand and shattered it on the ground, she said in an interview. Reaume said the demonstrator also stomped on her hand as she reached for the broken phone.

The bloody injury required medical attention, the news team said. KATU News filed an assault report with Portland police.

“Journalists should be able to walk around and try to gather a story without being harassed or assaulted,” Peavyhouse told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “A reporter shouldn’t need to go to urgent care.”

For months, reporters have navigated an array of hazards and hostilities as they’ve sought to document the racial justice movement that’s engulfed the city.

The rights to peaceably assemble and petition the government are enshrined in the First Amendment, which allows protesters to take to the streets of Portland.

The same amendment also grants protections to the press, which include the right to document and report on events as they happen in public spaces, free of any government restrictions.

During the height of racial justice and police reform demonstrations this summer, protesters and journalists frequently found themselves in the crosshairs of police, who routinely employed aggressive tactics as they sought to quell the nightly unrest.

Police shovedtear-gassed and shot rubber bullets at journalists trying to document protesters’ and police conduct.

Journalists carrying press passes and with the word “press” in large letters on their clothing were nevertheless forced out of protest zones by police, and some activists played up that conduct as outrageous on their social media platforms.

Yet as some protests began to take a more militant turn in the fall, the constant presence of reporters snapping photographs and livestreaming the action fell out of favor with a number of activists.

Some Portland demonstrators have threatened to destroy reporters’ cameras and smartphones to try to keep journalists from documenting illegal acts, such as when a group protesting Columbus Day toppled the statues of two former U.S. presidents and smashed up the Oregon Historical Society.

But reporters say the hostility toward their work around the Red House occupation zone feels unprecedented.

“I worry that to even ask someone for an interview I’m going to get ejected,” said Zane Sparling, a reporter with the Portland Tribune. That’s yet to happen to him thus far, Sparling said.

Activists have stacked wooden boards, corrugated metal sheets, nail-studded spike strips, tires and fences around their protest site and accumulated an arsenal ranging from glass bottles to rocks in the tightly-packed residential neighborhood.

They’ve aggressively policed and blocked public streets around the red house and banned anyone from taking photos or video. Multiple journalists have been booted from the occupation area, which includes a spray-painted message on a building wall that reads “F--- Press.”

“We’re completely hamstrung to show a realistic and fully dimensional picture of what’s going on,” said Oregonian/OregonLive photographer Beth Nakamura. Full, accurate information woud serve the public, she said.

“I’m not unsympathetic to the issues of gentrification and displacement that people are trying to address here,” Nakamura continued. “It’s a very messy moment. It’s a very tense moment. So it’s critical that we are able to communicate what’s at stake.”

Nakamura said she found herself making conscious choices and edits to avoid escalating tensions, due to the intimidating atmosphere around the blockade.

Activists have claimed photos and video footage have led to demonstrators being targeted by law enforcement officials and right-wing groups.

Courts have long established the right of journalists to document anything they witness from a public space, with limited exceptions such as a ban on photography in some federal courtrooms and limits on disruptions inside public schools.

The PNW Youth Liberation Front says that exercising that right strikes them as disrespectful.

“Respect means getting people’s explicit individual consent before filming them in any way, showing them what footage you’ve taken when asked, and deleting footage you’re asked to delete,” the group said in a separate Twitter post. “Anyone who won’t respect basic consent is [an expletive] creep, and a danger to the community here.”



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On 12/12/2020 at 4:03 PM, Auburn85 said:



If I were the mayor, I guess I'd be that a**hole that had multiple SWAT teams or got the governor to call up the National Guard and ran these idiots out of there.  You can't have vigilantes just take over, assault journalists reporting and documenting the situation, making up their own rules for when a journalist can do their job and how, and so on.  

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