AP journalists working in all formats produced powerful, distinctive stories, images and footage during a rough and often violent week of protests in Portland.
When more than 100 federal agents ramped up the U.S. government’s presence at the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, they energized the racial injustice protest movement in the state’s largest city and renewed the debate over the limits of federal policing powers. For more than a week, thousands of people turned out for nightly demonstrations that erupt in violence. Every night federal agents tear-gassed protesters – including the city’s mayor on one night.
AP’s all-formats coverage shined all week, keeping the cooperative ahead in both developments and searing images of clashes involving lasers, fires, homemade bombs and tear gas.
On Tuesday, Portland-based reporter Gillian Flaccus’ spot enterprise story examining concerns by legal experts of federal overreach was an online hit. AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano said of the piece: “It appeared in several widely-read morning newsletters and I saw it tweeted last night by the LA Times. It tackles some very weighty issues in a smart and accessible way and has just the right tone.”
Photographer Noah Berger, arriving early in the week, captured stunning images of a flag being burned, pitched battles between protesters and agents and the danger that people on all sides faced.
Flaccus worked overnight Wednesday from the scene, enabling AP to be among the first to report that Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed, and securing user-generated images and video. Oregon statehouse reporter Andrew Selsky wrote about a Navy veteran being beaten and pepper sprayed by federal forces, an assault that was captured on a viral video and that led to an internal government investigation. Selsky’s Navy vet story was the number one online story globally last week, with 383,000 page views, while the spot story about mayor being tear gassed was number two.
Working with the race and ethnicity team, Selsky also documented how the tremendous attention on the Portland protests was seen within the context of the greater Black Lives Matter protests.
Berger, along with photographer Marcio Sanchez and video journalist Aron Ranen, night after night delivered images of protester passion, including destruction and clashes with agents. All three put themselves in the middle of the conflict, exposing them to tear gas and considerable danger.
By the weekend, the protests had ramped up even further, as did the AP team. Federal law enforcement reporter Mike Balsamo embedded overnight Friday and Saturday with federal agents as Flaccus was outside the perimeter with protesters. Sara Cline in Salem, Oregon, tracked activities nightly via social media and reporting.
As the team produced a steady stream of spot updates and images, it also worked on a larger exclusive that would be the capstone of the week, moving overnight Sunday. Photos by Berger and Sanchez would give readers a close look at the experiences on both sides of the fence. A video piece shot by Berger and Ranen, and produced and tracked by Krysta Fauria, explained how complex the situation was.
For a week’s worth of powerful, revealing stories and startling images that provided insight into the events in Portland, the team of Flaccus, Berger, Sanchez, Ranen, Balsamo, Selsky, Cline and Fauria wins AP’s Best of the States award.