Journalist sues Oregon city and county over 2020 arrest

September 30, 2022 GMT

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon journalist is suing the city of Medford and Jackson County over her arrest in 2020, saying her rights were violated.

April Ehrlich filed a legal complaint earlier this month seeking a jury trial and damages, KLCC reported.

On Sept. 22, 2020, Ehrlich was working with Jefferson Public Radio when she was arrested while trying to cover a Medford Police sweep of a homeless camp in Hawthorne Park.

Bodycam video shows Ehrlich preparing to record footage of camp residents and police, and being directed by an officer to keep to a designated media area. The complaint says it was near a noisy interstate overpass and views of the activity were obscured.

When Ehrlich does not comply and moves closer, she is told that she is trespassing. She responds that she’s a reporter documenting events, after which the officer tells Ehrlich to leave and is arrested by multiple officers.

Ehrlich’s gear was confiscated and she was jailed. The Medford attorney’s office charged Ehrlich with trespassing, resisting arrest, and interfering with an officer, all of which were eventually dismissed.

“I want Medford to know, and I want other agencies that are considering similar tactics to keep the media from documenting public agencies to know that this will not fly,” Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich’s case drew widespread attention, including from Journalists Without Borders and the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which recorded a dramatic spike in arrests, detainments, and assaults against reporters in 2020.

In a statement, City of Medford officials said the park closure was lawful, and journalists have no special or unique right of access to property closed to the general public. The statement also said Ehrlich was arrested only after refusing orders to leave.