The city of Medford, the Medford police, and Jackson County are the targets of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Oregon Public Broadcasting journalist April Ehrlich. She claimed that her arrest on September 22, 2020, in a city park prevented her from doing her job as a reporter covering a police sweep of a homeless camp.
Additionally, Ehrlich contended that authorities violated her civil rights by interfering with her journalism and by illegally inspecting her possessions.
Journalist April Ehrlich files a civil rights lawsuit after being arrested while reporting
As per the lawsuit, April Ehrlich was strolling around Hawthorne Park in Medford while reporting on the camp clearance. She allegedly held her audio recording equipment and showed her press badge as proof on September 22, 2020.
In a video released by the Medford Police Department, Ehrlich identified herself as a reporter and said she was in a public park when cops approached her and requested that she leave. Ehrlich said:
“I’m a reporter! I am a reporter! I’m just doing my job.”
Reportedly, April Ehrlich defied police orders to stand in a media staging area while documenting evictions at Hawthorne Park for NPR affiliate Jefferson Public Radio.
Shortly after, she was detailed and was taken under custody by Medford and Jackson County officials. She was charged with second-degree trespassing and resisting arrest. The City of Medford later dismissed the charges.
In a statement following her arrest, Jefferson Public Radio stated that the staging location was situated in an area that made it impossible to "effectively see or hear interactions between police officers and campers, or gather audio."
Based on sources, the civil rights lawsuit was filed by Ehrlich after all the criminal charges were withdrawn. The Portland law office Kafoury and McDougal are representing her case.
April Ehrlich said in a statement:
“To send a crew of police to sweep a homeless encampment in a public park and not allow media access was wrong. From early on, I felt wronged... I want to make it perfectly clear this should not happen. I hope that officers in Oregon and in Medford and elsewhere take notice of this case and provide reasonable access to reporters covering government actions in a public park.”
On September 22, 2020, Hawthorne Park was declared closed by Medford Police and Jackson County probation officers, but campers, volunteers, and other visitors were permitted to stay. Additionally, authorities stated that people were allowed in the park to retrieve possessions or provide help, but they were not authorized to photograph what was going on.