PORTLAND, Ore. — Andrew Jankowski (@Andrewjank) is a freelance journalist in Portland who has been reporting on the protests against racial inequality and police brutality for almost three months now.
Before the protests, he was an arts and culture writer. Since demonstrators took to the streets to have their voices heard, everything from what he carries in his bag, to what he wears, including a press helmet with Pokemon stickers on it, has changed.
He was arrested while wearing a clearly visible press pass just days after a restraining order was placed on Portland police prohibiting them from arresting journalists and legal observers unless they are committing a crime.
Jankowski said he was doing his job when he was bull-rushed by police and pushed into an officer before he fell to the ground and was taken into custody.
The process of covering protests can be traumatic for a journalist. Jankowski spoke candidly in this interview about the trauma of being a journalist on the front lines being tear-gassed every night and watching protesters and police clash.
But he said the protests are not the horror and mayhem that viewers may see in the national media, but there is a dialogue about change and progress happening at the large protests and every emotion from anger to celebration can be felt.
Here is his hour-long interview:
Andrew Jankowski: So my name is Andrew Jankowski. So it's actually, yeah. I'm glad that you asked, because even though it's on social media, I get confused for the guy who's the kicker, Janikowski all the time. And not me. I am a freelance journalist. I have been printed with Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, and several other publications, including Portland, monthly and Oregon Arts Watch. And I've been on different news outlets as a guest in my capacity as a journalist, which includes KABU, KATU, uh, KATU’s morning show AM Northwest. And I'll have to add this one now.
Destiny Johnson:You have been covering the Portland protests basically since day one. But your life was a little bit different before that. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
A: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm not sure if I was there, you know, at day one or anything like that, I'd say I showed up within the first week, but, prior to that, I guess my journalism life is -- I went to school -- I've always been really interested in journalism, you know the industry has changed so much throughout my lifetime that I've just gone through different periods of what you've learned is obsolete, now you have to literally relearn. So, in college I was an editor at Portland State Vanguard. That’s sort of where I learned how to cover protests more professionally. I've attended them in my life as is my right. But this was where I learned how to kind of put my own biases, like, you know, not to the side that at least like admit what they are, so that way, you know, I can get toward impartiality.
And so they know who's a perspectives to include so that I don't become biased or anything like that. My first protest in that capacity were the J 20 protests, which were related to the curation of president Trump. Then I've gone to and attended other ones in my capacity as journalists, including the ICE raids, um, not ICE raise, sorry, but the ones, the ones abolish ICE from 2018, they're all kind of stacking on top of each other now. So when I graduated -- I have a lot of different focuses that I to cover. I like to focus on primarily like arts and culture and music. So, back in the olden days of press pass was mostly just so I could get into a concert hall or something like that, you know?
So how the, how times have changed.
Jankowski laughs about how the times have changed because now a press pass isn’t just a formality – it is supposed to be keeping journalists from being arrested while covering the protests in downtown.
A: So anyway, leading up to the coronavirus here, when the coronavirus hit, obviously all of my music work dried up, I literally went to bed and woke up and everything that I had written the night before for my music calendar and it was all canceled. It was gone. The way I remember getting involved with these protests was seeing the videos on Twitter of, for me, it was the Justice Center and the mall getting just thrashed. And it was just, you could tell there's the rage that was going on related to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, um, Tony McDade, it just far too many. Just, you know, all of these names, all of these names and all of the ones that were still learning about all of the ones that even in Portland that we're starting to learn about again.
My point is in that video, just the rage of that loss is so palpable. For me, the way I kind of put it, it's just, you know, as America is like trying to get back to normal or whatever, why is racism and police brutality -- like, why are those, the things that just effortlessly went back to normal as though, you know, they had gone on an interrupted. And then to see those videos, I was just like, this is nothing like I had seen in my -- I've lived in Portland for over a decade. I'm born in this area like this Metro. Um, this is nothing like I had seen in my entire life. Even the legends of everything that happened in the 90s, this is nothing like that. If it is, you know, the legends weren't told that great, but the point is just, so when I saw other journalists go out there who didn't have necessarily like the support of a newsroom, Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) is definitely been the one who -- I think I saw him first. I didn't know him yet at all, but just seeing the precision of his work and just knowing that this is happening, I was like, okay, I have to go out and I have to use the skills that I have in order to provide to the narrative, because you're not going to get the whole story from one person. That's just not a realistic expectation is not possible, you can't get it from one outlet. You can't get it from one -- yeah. So it's just, I thought, okay, I can, my editor told me that if you're not going to be first to do something, then if you are reinforcing what's out there, if you're reporting on what's already been reported on, it means it makes it true because the facts that are true are getting repeated and you may find something new that somebody else had some gotten yet, so if first matters that bad there's reasons to still keep doing it.
So long story short there, that's how I got started with the protests. You know, initially in the pre-quarantine times, I was an arts and culture music editor and now I am on the front lines doing protests, not my first protest, but you know, I'm here now.
And I was mostly on the East side of Portland covering it was the group that was known as Rose City Justice. They had marched onto the bridge before lot of different ones like that and they had dissipated. So I'd been to downtown before I was downtown, maybe within the first week of the protest. That was the first time I'd ever been tear gassed. It was definitely scary. And that's probably, you know, especially if there's people who haven't been out yet and are -- have never dealt with tear gas now, now I'm almost, I'm actually desensitized to it. I still feel it. But it's like, if you out there with this heightened sense of fear, like how much worse is that, you know what I'm saying, saying that to say, I had been out to the downtown before, but now I'm going back out there more often than being a more clear story of what's going on than if I had just gone with say Rose City Justice. Um, yeah. So that's, that's kind of the start of, of that for me. This is how I, that all began.
D: Yeah, absolutely. I know you were one of the ones out there pretty early on. I don't mean to say like you were there at the break of the action but certainly you've been out there for a long time. I've been following your coverage and lots of other people, Alex Zielinski (@alex_zee) comes to mind and who I think is doing a great job. I mean, so many freelance journalists are out there risking their necks every night. It's crazy.
A: And just one thing I wanted to say to that effect is, one thing that's coming up now is, journalists who have institutional support is those who don't like Alex Zielinski, who is fantastic, is the news editor over at Portland Mercury. Through her employment with Mercury has on different kinds of benefits than I do. Like for example, like, you know, health care from an employer and like their legal protections, I don't necessarily have those same resources. I have an employer that I have my day job with my health insurance but not all freelancers do so. And then as far as legal benefits, yeah. I don't have like the same insurances that maybe you do, or maybe the Alex does. So I'm just, yeah, that's all I didn't mean to interrupt or anything, but it's just to say, like, when there's people who like one thing I'm learning is people don't understand what freelance journalism is. So like, it's just having to explain, like, there's all the, like when people say like “the media” it's like, there are so many different kinds of media. Like we really got to have conversations that talk about that. Because media literacy isn't is not taught in school unless you're really out there looking for it. So just as professionals, we have to have that talk. So I know, you know that, but you know, we're having a conversation for people at home.
D: Yeah, absolutely. I didn't mean to insinuate that Alex Zielinski is also a freelance journalist. But you're right. You're right to make that distinction because people who are following just on Twitter or even just see your tweets or somebody else's tweets embedded in a story, they may not understand like the different risk levels. And that's so true. And to talk about that and to talk about how we're getting our information and the sort of cost-benefit analysis of that right is so important. Because you're right. And that leads me to my next question. You, as a freelancer and other freelancers are quite literally risking your neck in a way that somebody like me, who's associated with the newsroom has legal coverage, who has healthcare insurance through my job, I cannot risk. I cannot risk in the same way.
I can risk my own, you know, sanity safety in the same way, but it's not just my decision, it’s a decision that's backed up by a multimillion-dollar media corporation. So, it's a completely different story. And like I said, that leads me to my next question. You were arrested as a credentialed journalist, which we know you and I, as journalists know, is not okay or allowed at this time, there is a bar actually keeping Portland Police Bureau from arresting credentialed journalists and legal observers until October. So can you tell me a little bit about what happened, how that happened, what transpired, how you were treated? You said you have your credential on you that you were wearing at the time?
A: I was gonna say, I'm glad to hear this. Didn't extended to October because I know that, um, when I was arrested, it had been probably within 24, 48 hours of the restraining order being extended, so. Okay, cool. Cool to know. Yeah, so I was wearing my credentials and this is actually what I wear when I go out I've had to block off my name and my Twitter handle because I've been experiencing harassment no that I’ve had my mugshot and all my police provided information leaked. You can see freelance journalist, and then all of the different logos. You know, when I go through and redo this, maybe I'll make the logos a little smaller than maybe make the text bigger, but this is actually the freelance journalist size is the size of the paper, I can't make that a whole lot bigger. But that's to say, accidentally getting a little bit cut up, but you know, the one that I had was using clear tape as opposed to this black tape, I just ran out of clear tape the other night. So, sufficed it to say, I have that on my chest, when I was arrested people who were on the other side of the street who had lights shined in their faces could tell that I was a member of the press. So this suggests, I mean, I'm just like, how could I have been arrested as a journalist? My charges are disorderly conduct, disorderly conduct 2, and interference with a peace officer. I only learned that through KGW. They told me my charges, but they didn't like fully explained them until I was like being – Honestly, fully explained is kind of a stretch.
It's more like fully told me what they were called. They didn't tell me until it was being interrogated. I could kind of hear it when they were telling me out on the field, but it was only after – and by field, I mean, like the street I don't, I mean, I'm using jargon back and forth.
I was actually shoved into a street. Basically the night of July 16 into July 17, we were in the street because it was the second time that the police had sort of pushed back on protesters. They came out of the Southeast precinct and ordered them to disperse and then kind of marched on them effectively giving them no choice and they comply, they were moving. It's one of these things where they announced it first while you're dispersing and then they will rush you if they don't like the speed you're moving at.
It's just nothing they were doing really made a lot of sense. And that's where repeating it back, it's like -- it sounds ridiculous.
So the second time when we got bull rushed, I was doing my job. I was trying to record video. If I had run very fast, I would have trampled protesters and my main journalistic value is ethical kindness, meaning I'm not going to do something that's --I mean, you can interpret ethical kindness a lot of different ways --- but for me, I'm not going to do something that would hurt like any of my subjects in a physical way. Like I just will not do it. So I, instead of running into my fullest capacity, I ran and there was this sort of thing that happens. I've seen this more than once where you're complying with officers and then suddenly there's a flank of them to either your left or your right.
Kind of like they're waiting for you, they got ahead somehow. I saw them kind of on my rights and I was like, okay, I'm going to kind of veer more left and center. And then as I'm trying to do that, the bull rush happens and I'm running, I'm running, you know, trying, I wind up colliding with a body and I say a body, because again, it's, we're on a dark part of East Burnside it’s the residential area that isn't very well lit. The street is also curving and kind of at a weird -- Oh, you know, I don't know my street technical terms, is it a weird angle? I collide with the body and it shoves me and that's what leads me to believe it was a cop basically was one: we've seen videos of them pushing protesters and two: in my interactions with protesters, they have been, they've actually gone out of their way to be gentle and guiding with me.
Like either for example, it’s anything as kind of telling me, ‘I'm about to light off a firework, don't stand right here,’ And I'm like, ‘Thank you, my hearing thanks you,’ or in this case, out this night, they held onto the back of my backpack and made sure that I didn't get like -- or that was the first time that this happened -- because remember, there are two times we get bull rushed. First time they're holding onto my backpack by the handle, just very gently giving me the autonomy to move and be free. But then if anything happens, they were going to pull me on out
Like, so anyways, so the second time I get pushed and it's by a body there's wearing armor harder than anything I've ever felt in my life, like harder than a football equipment or anything. So, it shoves me into another similar feeling body who then shoves me again. It just feels like pinball. I lose my balance, I fall into the street. And at that point, and I know I had been yelling media, like I know I've been yelling it before. I don't know if I was yelling it when I was on the ground. I have this really distinct memory of screaming it just as loud and high as I could. But it's also one of those things, again, where I I'm almost out of my body looking down. So it's like, when did that happen?
I'm lying face down on the ground and then -- another thing people ask me all the time is like, who arrested you? How many people arrested you? The thing is I'm lying face down on the ground. I can't see, it's dark. My back is pinned down there pulling my arm behind my back. I just have to do this so you can see it. And it's like, they are twisting my wrist and some kind of weird -- oh yeah, that's probably like that because if I do it, it hurts the way it did then -- they're twisting my hand trying to get my phone out of my hand. And at that point I'm thinking to myself, I can, you know, I can get a video or I can get a broken wrist or I can keep my wrist or I can keep, you know, a crappy video maybe. So, I made the decision to let go.
I remember when I was putting on zip ties, I remember from my left wrist -- he was struggling to get the zip ties on and I tried to do something with my hand in a way that was going to allow him to get it on, and he yelled to stop resisting. And I was just like, I'm clearly not dealing with someone who is playing with the same deck of cards that I am. I just have to let whatever's happening happen and no matter what that is, I just -- I'm clearly outnumbered. There's no fight on earth that I'm going to win, so I'm not going to risk myself any further. Once I’m zip-tied, the bend my legs in a way that allows me to get up, but very much allows me to know I'm not in control of my body anymore.
That’s when, uh, bystanders, including a freelance journalist, the one who recorded me, in the video that OregonLive used, asks me identifying questions like my name, like, am I a journalist? I haven't seen that video yet. I don't know if I will. It'll probably be a while before I do. But I remember trying to spell my name like I did for you with, know, with the little n’s and s’s but I was just so scared at that point. I was giving gibberish letters and pronunciations and things like J-A-N as in king, like, you know what I'm saying? Like that sort of thing. Because I was just so like, I am a journalist, this is not supposed to be happening, why is this happening? What could I be saying or doing differently that would like actually make you, let me go.
And you know, turns out nothing. They still arrested me. They cut off my backpack and then they cut off my zip ties very close in that order. Then they put on the real ones. They asked themselves, because I was arrested probably only a couple of blocks from the precinct, they were asking themselves if they should walk me over or if I should be driven. And I remember even at the time being like you can walk me, but in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't because I'm like, oh god, what if they had just walked off a corner or something with me? And then nobody had seen it like that, that just occurred to me now. I'm just like, oh god, I'm glad I got in that car.
But yeah, they loaded me in and I’m a very, very tall man so it's just one of those things where I'm like, they say, ‘Watch your head,’ and I'm like, how do you want me to get in? I literally have to like almost fold and half to do this, um, with my hands by my back. So I'm taken to the precinct, they cut my press pass off after asking what it is, the words freelance journalists are slashed and I thought that was a really odd tactical choice because again, if you're trying to get this off and you're like cutting up here [gestures to the tape above the words 'freelance journalist'], I'm like, what, what are you doing? Like truly, what are you doing?
So, you know, again, at that point I'm being effectively, legally kidnapped, I'm just like, well, just don't make this worse than myself, I guess. I'm taken to the Justice Center with other arrestees, or prisoners, I guess I'm again, trying to, as a journalist figure out what do we call ourselves?
I'm not different from them now. I just have a different function. So again, a lot of this feels like it's an attempt to attack my integrity or attack my objectivity. And that, as a journalist, especially violent because it's, again, I didn't do anything wrong as journalists, we are not supposed to be in our stories, but I was quite literally shoved into this story.
I'm not the first, second, third or fourth journalist that's been arrested, other journalists have suffered, far more horrific assault than me. I guess I just, of last week was the most recent to get arrested. I hope, I hope I'm the last one who gets arrested. I better be the last, I better be the last person that gets arrested. That is just absolutely ridiculous. Like, even when I went out last night, journalists were hit with --I know one of them who came down from Seattle, she was hit with a pepper ball. I have the photo of that on my Twitter of the welt that was forming while I was taking the photo.
We go to the Justice Center, they had taken our things already at the East precinct. And, you know, that was like where my pass was taken and they took off my bull riding vest. They didn’t seem to understand why I would wear one after getting shoved to the ground by people bull-rushing me, you know, bull vest bull rush.
We’re down there in the garage, cause there's not a whole lot of like social distancing that goes on by the way. They loaded myself and two other male prisoners into one of the-- I mean, I don't even know what you would call it -- it's like a white van that has like a white metal wall or something in my legs is like from the tip of my need to the tip of my tailbone -- Uh, sorry. I was just saying something about my internet, can you still hear me?
D: I can hear you. Yeah. Like a passenger, like a prisoner transport vehicle?
A: Yeah. Basically. That's what I'm like. I don't know the exact term for it. After processing us, after going through our things, they dump out my water bottle bill and they dump out my contact solution that I've been using to flush my own eyes and other people's eyes.
They take us upstairs. I think again, there's a lot of waiting involved in this story, so if there's like a point where it sounds like this is happening really fast, this is a nine-hour story. That's an entire day of work plus some overtime.
D: They put you into the transport vehicle and then?
A: So, they put us in the transport vehicle and then they brought us upstairs. It was like, we were just kind of sitting around in the vehicle but they were searching our things and like making sure they knew whose stuff was with who and stuff. They took us upstairs. That's where I was first photographed, they photographed my press pass. Then they also brought me into my interrogation for the, I guess the two detectives – the part where I make a mistake here is I don't immediately use my right to remain silent to its fullest capacity. I use my right to remain silent early and often but I didn't use it the second that it was offered, like through the detectives, because I figured, you know, I am a freelance journalist who has done nothing wrong, I'm protected by the first amendment. What do I have to be afraid of? And it turns out they want to give me something to be afraid of.
Effectively, they had a lot of questions about my press pass, but they weren't asking like how you're asking. It felt like they were trying -- I felt like it was, you know, definitely interrogated is the right word.
Like, you know, there's ways to interview people. This was, they wanted to know something and they didn't care how they were going to get the information. I think what they were trying to get at was like, through my virtue as freelance journalists, they were like, ‘Well, who issued your press pass? Did you just make it? Couldn't anyone just go and make it?’ And again, one of the detectives girl and yeah, I was interviewed by a male, uh, detective and a female detective. So, girl, real Karen shenanigans, like I hope you're watching. Real Karen shenanigans, bravo.
I’m a call center worker. You gotta work a little harder than that. So Bravo. They were trying to intimidate me. So by that point, when I could tell they were not asking me in a way that was to learn information in a good way -- it's basic stuff, it's, I'll tell you, and I'll tell anyone wants to know, how journalism works and where my press has comes from.
But when it felt like it was being asked in a way that was going to hurt me, that's where, and again, anything you say can and will be used against you that they mean it, they 100% mean it, that's one thing. Anything that they can and will be used against you, literally anything you tell them, including your address will be used against you as I'm learning.
The right to remain silent -- just because you don't know who your attorney is, does not mean you have to speak. I did not know who my attorney was going to be. And as soon as I said, ‘I want to talk to my attorney.’ That was it. They're just like, ‘Well, we have all their questions anyway.’ I was like, Oh, I'm sure you do. I'm sure that that would have been the last one is that I hadn't said that. So--
D: Yeah. Anybody watching here, just from my legal background in reporting, the first question you always have to ask (when being stopped by police) is am I being detained? Right? Am I, do I have the legal right to leave?
A: I wish I had asked that when I was being held down. It was one of those things where it's just so much happening. It was just like -- I could barely even remember my own name quite literally. So, it's one of those things, I'm learning what I need to know. The gaps in my knowledge area are exposed and I have to fill them. So that's one of those things I definitely need to learn more about. So thank you. I appreciate that. So, once they did that, they took us back down to the garage area and through to the, I guess the prison area where inmates are, or because again, basically the areas I really saw -- it was kind of like at the complex of a waiting room. And when people talk about, you know, how schools and the hospitals look like these prisons, it’s not a joke.
When we're in the kind of waiting area, you know, getting processed, I am ultimately fingerprinted twice and not a hundred percent sure why that was, but anyway, I had my mugshot taken, and then we kind of go sit down - Oh, and I have my belts taken from me, I have my shoelaces taken from me, I have my hoodie strings taken. I was wearing an athletic cup, um, just for the various reasons one might when we're getting shot at. I was taken into another room with a male officer to have it removed.
And it was one of those things where I’m just like how on earth am I gonna do this comfortably? So, uh, I turned my back to him -- I'm not a huge fan of, as my father says, don't turn your back on the ocean. So I'm not a huge fan of doing that. I was able to remove it and then the officer was like, ‘Oh, that's it?’ And I don't know what he meant by that. I don't want to know what he meant by that. I was just like, he had the plastic part that was all he needed. So I kept trucking. And then, yeah, the other prisoners and I, we were in this kind of waiting area where eventually we were allowed to call, you know, make our calls, and the, the instructions on the wall, they say like how to do it in order to get a free call.
When you followed the instructions, it definitely makes you pay. And I know this because when I finally did get ahold of my partner, and you know --naturally there's no clock -- So it's hard to -- I found one clock in kind of a shadowy corner where I'm not sure that we're allowed to look. I think the idea is that we're supposed to look straight forward. Because I know one of the prisoners near me was looking at one of the officers and the officer felt threatened by being looked at and threatened him with like a solitary station. It was like, ‘You want a condo?’ I know what that means. It was like, you're going to set me up with a condo. Hold on a second. Was this is going be good for me. Wait a second.
Eventually got ahold of my partner after hours of calling all of my family. I tried to call the National Lawyers Guild. I think through the way it worked -- my calls were being made to pay. I don't know if that impacted anything, but I heard they were also really overwhelmed with calls at the time. So that could have been another reason, but somebody who repeated the National Lawyers Guild number, for those of us who hadn't written it down, he went into solitary is what he said to us when we were being released was, ‘They put me in one of those solitary cells for telling you guys that number.’ I don’t remember his name if he's watching, thank you. That was a help. I eventually got ahold of my partner and at least confirmed to him that he knew that it was alive.
Because one of the other things that – when you’re down there, you know, waiting, I didn't have to at least worry that I've been snatched by the feds. Unfortunately, like my family woke up after I had been let out or at least was unaware until several hours later. So it was fortunate that my family didn't have to be put through that, but the rest of the people in my life had to make that worry. Um, and I still need to probably do a little more research as to whether or not [his arresting officer] is with Portland police, is with Multnomah security is, or—haha, Multnomah security -- that's what it feels like. Multnomah Sheriff's office, uh, Gresham police, you know, cause again, there's so many agencies that are coming in now. It's so hard to keep track and they're all wearing very similar-looking uniforms. It's just like -- forgive me if I don't know some of the details about arrest, but again, a lot of privilege there too, for me where like I need to know this stuff and if I hadn't like how much worse could it have gone from me if I wasn't a journalist, if I didn't have any of the other advantages in my life that like society is rewarding or whatever, you know, like being white or like being a member of the press or just different things like that.
D: Yeah. And to you, and also, I mean, I don't, I don't need to tell you this, but to anybody else watching, you can certainly request it. It is a public records request to request your own incident report. Um, there will be one you likely will be issued a number, if you're arrested, you can ask for one, and you can, it'll have that information about the officers and stuff like that. And it’ll be their official report.
A: Interesting, I will definitely have to go through that then. Cause they know I have my case number, but I was just like, what do I do with it?
D: Yeah, you can, you can request for the incident report is typically what it's called using that number. They sometimes will stick you with like, ‘Okay, well what's the date?’ but having that number is really important. Especially if it is a situation where it was one day into another date, because sometimes it gets a little bit hairy in terms of requesting, because they can kick back your request if you don't request it correctly. So using that number for you, or for anybody else, you don't have to be a journalist to request that information. You can request it through public records, they have a portal the police do, and you can just make your request through there. So I would do that if I were you and you'll be able to find who works for where, who put hands on you, who didn't, who processed ya’.
A: I appreciate that. Because again, it's one of these things where it's like, you know, they don't teach you in school -- like what happens when you go through this. That’s where I'm like, how, when someone's going through that, how do they learn about this? And I'm thinking it's gotta be, it's gotta be you and me and our colleagues, if not anyone else, like if no one else is going to teach them, like someone's gotta do it. Thank you.
D: Oh yeah, absolutely. My question is what do you think that the arrest of a clearly marked journalist means in the big picture? Like we are, “the media,” is a current target in a lot of ways, you know,
A: We’re the President’s favorite targets and have been for years again when Jamal Khashoggi, and I hope I'm pronouncing his name right, when that journalist was killed and the United States did nothing, that made it very clear what the President thinks of journalists. So yeah, we've been out here knowing that we're not being protected and knowing that people, you know, aren't necessarily going to respect us or, you know, whatever, but like that's the thing, getting the information out there is more important. I've actually kind of been like quietly horrified by like the amount of attention I've been getting. Because again, like it shouldn't be about me. It needs to be about the affirmation of black lives and about undoing the systemic racism that has been embedded in society my entire life.
Through my arrest, I am seeing so much clearly with a different set of eyes, but at same time it should not have taken none of this should've been happening. None of this from the killings that are being protested and the lack of justice that is coming from them, to the country's just disgraceful handling of the coronavirus. Just none of this should be happening.
So what does it mean in terms of like the big picture? It means that,I mean, I can't say that things are gonna get better, but I think one thing I will say is the protests were dwindling before the feds showed up. I kind of question if the feds haven't shown up how much longer things could have gone on, but so many more people have been -- have seen themselves reflected in the brutality. Like, I don't know why people want them to make it an issue of like, you know, I get questions a lot about Antifa. And one thing people should remember is Antifa is short for antifascists.
It's not like a political party or statement. It should be the default is that you're against fascism, you're against racism. It's not a radical concept. So then to see other people, like if you're still like ‘ugh Antifa,’-- we've seen that video of the Navy vet that get assaulted by Marshals when he goes up to questions them about ir constitutional duty and those Call of Duty cosplayers just wailing on him and the composure, he, I mean, I would have broken in half, like physically if they had assaulted me like that. And so -- I know there's people being like, ‘Oh, you took it like a champ.’ Like he shouldn't, he's injured. You know, he should not have to take it like a champ. That was horrible. Like the protestor that was shot in the head with the munitions, like that shouldn't happen. So it was like, to me, it's clear. I don't see any evidence to suggest that the police or the feds are interested in de-escalation as it relates to them and recognizing their role as an aggressor. I mean, it's just -- I don't see any evidence to suggest it. And if somebody has evidence, you know, by all means, send it my way.
D: That mirrors lot with what commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been saying. It's like, these are not de-escalation techniques. Like we are being occupied, which is not what she said verbatim, but it's a lot in the spirit of the types of things that she has to say. So I mean, people here in Portland are not happy about the feds being here and you're quite right that the, I mean, it was down to what? Forty to 60 people a night at the Justice Center maybe before the feds came in and now we're seeing those numbers, like we saw in the beginning. Thousands of people just angry, angry you know?
A: Yeah, yeah, definitely the anger as there should be, there are also so many more emotions that are happening all at once too, like there's celebration and there's, people coming to terms with where, in their own lives, they have failed and taken part in the systemic racism and where they've benefited from it. There's yeah -- There's knowledge being learned. There's a cute little rib joint serving ribs while getting tear-gassed. It’s not a scary place to be. It's only, I will say it's scary because there's not a whole lot of social distancing going on, but when you're talking about thousands of people, you know, again, like my, my biggest fear is somehow over the next few months, there will be ways to crack down on our freedoms in ways that like we might not be anticipating or that, you know, the coronavirus will be used as a way to have our freedoms assaulted on like, that's my, that's me putting on my tinfoil hat. I don't have any reason to suggest that there's legal action for that happening right now. But you know, five months, almost like five months making plans is that's like a fool’s game at this point. If the coronavirus has taught me one thing, it's that, you know, why plan for a month ahead.
D: I think you make such a good point when you say that it's not the horror and chaos all the time that's being portrayed and like the national media and even some local media outlets either. And I think it's really valid to point out that there is joy and there is change and there is this communication between demonstrators and sort of creating this sort of microcosm of progress. And that is a lot about what this obviously is about. And for me is like a human, I'm a journalist, but I'm a human being, right. I'm a human being first. And so I really buy into your ideology of course, ethical kindness, kind of always how I've wanted to be as a journalist as well, and try to be, you know, every day when I go out and cover stories or, um, even when I'm at home writing stories, you know, trying to make sure that we're being as kind as we can to the people that we write about.
But as a human being, seeing all of these things that just, and especially seeing the way that it's sometimes villainized when it shouldn't be really breaks my heart. Right. And, and so it makes me wonder for you as a human being. I mean, how hard was it? Cause you know, you're doing good work or I hope that you know, that you and all the other journalists are doing good and important work, that it just it's so necessary. I don't have the words for how necessary that job is. Um, but how hard was it to get back on the horse? Was it hard to get back out there and sort of rehash all these emotions all over again? Because I think people forget journalists or people.
A: Yeah. It's, it's one of these things where I'm, I'm definitely dealing with some really complicated emotions and one, as, you know, a Pisces, I'm all about that emotions life, you know, people love to make the jokes about Pisces and emotions, but I'm like ‘Baby, you know, you want to make the jokes. You can't live the life,’ so, okay. You know, glug, glug, fish swim. I, I admit, yeah, I'm -- I'm, right now I am struggling. The thing that's so annoying to me is I-- that Friday that I got arrested, I missed a doctor's appointment by half an hour that I was gonna like get into therapy. And I'm like on this process already of trying to get support through my work from coronavirus related stresses. My day job is one where I am answering phones a lot.
And I'm doing a lot of like, I guess you could consider a code-switching where I'm going from talking about legal matters with people and medical matters to I'm talking about doggy daycare or other things that are more lighthearted. And I have kind of no control as to what's going to be, you know. So, today and yesterday I had to leave work early just because the, like talking with people about their legal problems right now is really difficult. Like, especially when my main jobs is to empathize with people. It's just like, I feel like I have to completely, now relearn how to professionally empathize in that way. Because like my way of doing it right now is just completely like thrashed. I have no idea, like right now I'm actually having a meeting with my bosses tomorrow. I'm hoping to kind of talk about some of that.
I'm to a point where this is completely disrupted my life. My partner and I, you know, my partner again, he's he answered my call at six in the morning. We've been together for five years. I love him more than I've ever loved another person. But we're both very high-stress people -- high anxiety. And right now we are getting on each other's nerves. It's, again, I love him very much, but it's also one of those things where it's like, I understand now how people who love each other can, you know, still fight and have problems like that, through no fault by him. Cause again, it's, it's like, he's not doing anything really wrong. It's just, we're both, we're both our nerves are frayed just by it.
D: Yeah. And I don't think that people who sit in their living rooms and watch the news and watch the coverage, including some of the videos that you shot and tweets that are going places that you never asked for them to go, and I think they really forget that like submerging yourself in something like this is traumatic and I'm not using that word out of context, it's truly traumatic. Not only are you putting yourself in physical danger, but making sure that the people around you, their story is being told accurately while you're also trying to watch your own six is a terrifying situation. It truly is. And so these types of this, this trauma, this literal trauma, I mean, it manifests in crazy ways and like that's not even talking about the current pandemic. So, you know, like it's, I just, I hope that you know, that what you're doing is worthwhile and I'm certainly sorry to hear that, um, you know, it's bleeding into your personal life, but we've all unfortunately been there.
And you know, I hope that you can get things a little straight, but I hope that, you know, and all the other journalists who are just out there, you know, risking their necks, that they know that what they're doing is really important and that they're taking time to take care of themselves. Cause I think when, when you get into journalism you’re not, I don't know a journalist who's good at taking care of themselves personally, not to casually drag us all, but it's true. So, you know, um, I, where I'm, I'm very sorry to hear that. I certainly hope that changes, but the work that you're doing and everybody else is doing, it's just immeasurably important.
A: Yeah. I'm having to relearn I'm, you know, breaking news, coffee and Twitter are not self-care. I have to keep in mind, what's not a self-care who knew who there was no way I could have known that information.
Again, my, my partner's being very supportive. People in my life are being very supportive. I've definitely struggled a lot with feeling like I let people down in terms of getting shoved into the story, because again, that's just not something that you go to do. And so I really felt like I failed people. And another thing like about this protest group is there's a lot of different groups of people that are coming out that we've got everyone from rappers to witches. And I mean, those are the two off the top of my head --
D: The moms you've got the moms. You’ve got the bikers --
A: The moms! You’ve got Grandmatifa that I ran into the other night, like yeah. There are so many people and different kinds of people that are out right now. And I was just like, thinking of all the groups that I am part of. And I was just like, I cannot let any of these people down. Like I cannot, you know, especially the other journalists who've been, you know, me being number five, I guess I'm like, ‘Oh, I can't let them down. Like, they've been through this, I'll get through this.’ Like, but it's definitely one of those things where I have definitely struggled with like the symptoms of trauma, including being really short with people where I'm, in my personal life, am very patient, or I, you know, I lose it sometimes as we all want to do, but I'm typically known as a very patient and considerate person. And that has been a challenge right now. And I wish it wasn't and I can try to do everything in my power to not make it harder, but yeah. The trauma is real.
D: Can you talk a little bit about as basically a freelance entertainment reporter versus somebody who's covering protests, sort of what your journalistic bag looks like these days? Because it's probably a lot different than it was as an entertainment reporter -- as somebody who covers entertainment.
A: Yeah. Yeah. Actually that was the one thing I was going to talk about in terms of like arts and culture. Like I'm really bringing that lens from my reporting is just -- this is our community. And this is the art is the moment. And art is how we understand things that words sometimes failed to convey. Like for example, all of this like crap about, ‘Oh, the graffiti!’ I'm like, okay, one: were none of you here in the 90s? I promise you, it looked worse than this and the 90s. And two: you know, if you think graffiti is scary or bad -- I saw this one photo of like these feds pointing guns at people. One of the graffiti things says eat spinach. So, it's just like, come on now or even reading what's on there, come on amateur hour.
It’s just -- so back in the day I used to use cute and fun bags cause I like to again, make sure that I am expressing myself and having fun. I usually use like a bag that had The Little Mermaid on it. Cause that's one of my all-time favorite movie, who doesn't love a movie where she says ‘I'm 16 years old. I'm not a child!’ Yeah, I'm 31 and still saying that. So, back in that day the press pass was basically just so I could prove to the bouncer that I don't have to pay a cover charge. I haven’t said those words in months, ah, cover charge, bouncer, drink tickets. Oh.
D: Oh! Say it slower, say it slower!
A: Drink tickets -- working for drink tickets, no I’m just kidding. But yeah, it was just like, I could just use my keys and the wallet and the phone, you know, the camera that I'm going to, you know, photograph the musicians or whoever a little light, stuff like that, maybe a snack. But yeah, nowadays it's like, I am carrying -- I've definitely had to switch to a more covert bag, because, yeah, The Little Mermaid, a little too visually recognizable and the bag I was using has been destroyed. So, I went out and bought a just a nondescript gray backpack. So, I have my gray bag. I have Oh, I was just trying to decide if I should go grab my press helmet or if it would be safe or not. I have like little Pokemon stickers all over my press helmet.
This is a way to like make people, you know, again, I am a freelancer named Andrew and there's people on the internet that sound a lot like that. And it's ‘No, I’m the gay freelance Andrew,’ and they're like still scared for understandable reasons. So, I'm like, is he going to put cute Pokemon stickers on like this? I don't think so -- so in my bag, I carry water, in terms of like water to drink water, to wash my hands or other people's hands. The contact lens solution that I use, I mean, I don't know if I should say the brand of what I use, but I've been told that it works really well. And yeah, I use the Bausch + Lomb Biotrue contact lens solution and it has a really natural pH level. Because one of the things that I'm seeing a lot online that is being shared is information of don't put contact lens solution in your eyes, and that's true, you should really talk to somebody who is more expert than just like grabbing something.
Because people, when they also say that they're then telling me that they're using hard contact lens cleaner, which no, my God, you don't want that in your eye. That's to like kill some pretty intense germs the solution that I use is what, you know, your lenses sit in overnight that you then immediately go and put in, I don't wear contact lenses, but that's my understanding of them. So, and my partner uses that product when his eyes are feeling dry, he'll just go zip, zip, and yeah, no problems, there. People should really be knowledgeable about what they are using. Like the first night I headed out, I was using some outdated information about milk and had gone out and buy milk. No, don't put milk in your eyes cause that's not sanitary. It's going to get crusty.
I understand the logic behind it that they're trying to engage the ingredient that is kind of like the spice and spicy food, but there are other ingredients there and that's just not working as effectively as something that is like your own tears. I will tell you that I have done some pretty intense flushing for one specific volunteer for Riot Ribs, I flushed his eyes twice and he almost comes and finds me. He might come by me if it happens again. And that's the thing -- is I'm almost making a joke about getting teargassed again, cause we're talking about some very real, very horrible things, but it's just like -- I guess I'm so into this. I just don't see sometimes that like, yeah, I'm talking about like an Individual getting a third time. I've lost count of how many times I’ve been teargassed.
So I almost just, I'm almost reckless and how unafraid I am now. But you know, not reckless to where I'm not doing my job or like putting anyone else at risk just myself – as journalists are want to do. So I've got in my bag has got an umbrella that is useful for like tear gas type situations -- getting the particles away. I'd seen those be helpful. So, I have one I only carry my, my driver's license now. I don't carry my whole wallet in case there's anything weird that happens with my money or anything like that. They [police] took my cash, they took my cash. I only had $5 on me, but they took my cash and gave me back a debit card that if I didn't use it within five days was going to incur a $6 finance charge plus other kinds of daily interest and finance charges.
So there's, that's a whole story unto itself that we could get into, but that's, you know, again, there's so much going on right now. So, I'm carrying less cash these days which is really upsetting because sometimes there's food that is for money, because it should be, and I want to eat it. And I'm like, Oh, I don't have money jar. Anyway, what else do I carry? A lot of water, a lot of water. Cause again, kind of like one of the things about this protest, this iteration of the Black Lives Matter rally that is so interesting is it's using every single lesson that we've learned from other movements. Like again, that water and air are sacred with DAPL that with Me Too, you need to listen to victims who have been systemically shut out and that as a society, for whatever reason, we've been trained not to listen to. The Abolish ICE rallies in terms of exposing just the horrific treatment of prisoners. It's just all of these things now. So intersectional, just we're learning so so much that doesn't necessarily relate to what's in my bag, but that just made me think of it
D: So I just wanted to make a note like, so the Pokemon stickers on your press helmet, like that's so valid because -- when people see me, I have tattoos and I'm definitely like “alternative” whatever that means. Right? Certain subgroups or subcultures will talk to me and feel comfortable for me to tell their story, which I'm so thankful for. Right. So, like marketing yourself in that way and not just as press, I don't think a lot of people understand, but it's really like the currency of the people, right? Like you want people to understand that like I'm a human being, like I'm here to do my job and I'm not standing in your way. I'm friendly, you know? Like, so I really liked that because I think that says more than people think it does. You know?
A: I have to say even that is not enough. Like when I was coming up to a protester who had been pretty severely gassed she was so scared and being led by friends and I come up, you know, I'm a very tall man with all of my layers. I'm also very much larger looking and with my helmet, I even, you know, if you're not seeing the Pokemon stickers, I can look like a cop sometimes. And that's where, that's why I talk up with my voice to try and make sure like, I'm like, what cop is going to come to you with this voice? It's like, you know, who is going to sound like that? Come on now. But she was so scared and I was trying to explain to her what I had in my bag. And she was like, ‘What is that?’ it was just like questions that I'm like, mm it's not exactly what you're looking for, but please just trust me.
And the thing that -- I don't know if I'll ever forget this, she said, are you trying to kill me? And that just broke my heart, like in that moment and just made me be like, I have to do every -- I have to work harder to make sure that people know that I'm not out to hurt anyone. I come from a medical background too. You know, I'm not a doctor by any means -- I took a sacred medical receptionist. No. But no, it's real. It's just, I would never harm anyone in my capacity knowingly, and you know, if people are like, Oh, well, you know, “public figures” you know, just in terms of like some of the things that we report on, it's just like, yeah, but don't do the thing that I'm reporting on. Geez, it’s not that hard.
But yeah, I, the, she ultimately though by the end of the, of that exchange though, the protester hugged me and that felt really like I made her feel safe and that, to me, was really important. So yeah, people have been coming up to me who may not necessarily trust other journalists. And I know there is a specific -- one of the men who spoke to Mayor Wheeler last night is a he's a rap critic. His name is Mac Smiff (@MacSmiff), and I've seen in his feed, there are people who were telling him that he's their main source of news. So yeah, like you -- when we have people who look like us, who may not be, you know, the journalistic normal or what has been the journalistic normal it's just so important in ways that aren't at the top of everyone's minds.
Like the number of people now, following me who are from the LGBTQ community. I just, I think if I had realized how many of us, like by sheer numbers, there were, I would have been a little bit of a less of a mopey kid. So yeah, it's just one of those things. It's just all of these things that we're seeing. And it just shouldn't have taken -- It shouldn't have taken all of this for us to see it, but we're seeing it now. It just still makes me really proud of the work that I do.
D: It should. And every layer of a person's person-ness you know, contributes to their reporting. So, you know, their gender, their lack of thereof gender, their sexual orientation, or lack thereof, or, you know, whatever their race their socioeconomic standing, all of these things really play into how we perceive the world and therefore how we report it. So, it's really important to make sure, to me at least, as an alternative reporter or whatever you want to call it, like people have said thousands of things. I have a, I have a nose ring -- that's really what it boils down to -- emulate the people that we talk to. It just, it adds that extra layer and people feel safer and that ultimately is now somehow the media's goal. It used to just be: report the facts. But now it's like, gently cajoling people into trusting us so we can then report the facts. But yeah, I can't even imagine what it's like out there. And I know it's not like the national media be portraying it and we've seen a lot of inflammatory headlines. So, I guess if you could tell people who aren't there, people out of state, people who are staying in their homes, even in Portland, what it's like, what would you tell them?
A: Again, a lot of different vibes. It's always going to be different on different nights, but this past week when I've made it out early, the energy has been good. The energy -- it feels like it could be like a concert. It feels, it feels like people are anticipating and waiting and listening. It's not a scary place to be. It's like there you'll find someone who is like you and you'll find someone who's unlike you, you in a really positive way. It's almost like there's no way of knowing what a protest could be like on any given day. Like there's been, like, for example, one of the days was the snack block, back in June, where it was like this cute little, like under the bridge party style thing. Or there, you know, I mean, Mayor Wheeler came out last night.
I mean, you just never know who's gonna show up. It's just, there's always something different that winds up happening. And there's also just the other thing too, is the downtown protests are not the only protest that happen. There's also the stripper strike, which is related to Black Lives Matter in the way that it's fighting for racial justice within strip clubs, in terms of the discrimination against black dancers being featured in Portland. It's just something that has gone on. And I'll, I mean, I'll just out myself. I have a lot of experience with strip clubs. I in college wrote the strip club etiquette guide. And that was one of our most-read stories of that year. And that was the year when we had like the rise of fascism. So for that to be a higher read story too, I'm like, ‘Hey, SEO people, I know what I'm talking about.’
But it's just like, yeah. So I know a bit about strip clubs and I can say, definitely this is true in Portland that there's this inequality. And especially like when we're talking about space as a fantasy, like, you know, we really need to be aware of that kind of like that exotification fetishization and how it impacts the very real people who are doing the work. So yeah. So, my point to say, there is a stripper strike which is another march that is related. But again, a lot of the sounds autonomous and not like a hard leader movement. But then there's also the, on the same, you know, on the same spectrum of all this there are people who meet in their cars at like one of the community colleges and drive around in the neighborhoods. It's people who are older or people who have immune issues, they're able to be socially distant in that way. They might not necessarily be engaging downtown in any way, but they're also causing a presence like miles long of cars.
And I say that from being told that by people there, I haven't actually gone out to the car watch or anything like that -- the thing there's so much going on. And as the Oregonian reported, again, most of the reporting that is going is on like two blocks of downtown, which is one of uh, I was going to say five quadrants because the fifth sector is new. But yeah, there's just like Portland is such a bigger and more rich storytelling space than the two blocks of downtown. So, you cannot get the full picture if you were just so focusing on that. And I'm making it my endeavor to know more about what's going on you know, outside like that, that was part of why I went to the precinct was I was like, okay, you know, downtown's covered, there's a lot of people there as far as journalists, but there's only one or two at the precinct.
So I was like, I can go and cover that. But yeah, there's multiple events that happen.
D: But you know, there are things going on everywhere, but the violence that you see is, is momentary –serious -- but momentary.
A: Yeah. merchandise can be replaced. Windows can be replaced. Plywood can be replaced. Black lives cannot.