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Press advocates speak out after journalist arrested at homeless encampment

Earlier this week, a North Bay journalist was arrested as he was documenting homelessness in Sausalito, California. The arrest triggered warnings from press freedom groups about police overreach, marking an escalation in the conflict over local housing.

Jeremy Portje is the veteran freelance photojournalist who was arrested on Monday. His defense attorney Charles Dresow said he was charged with two misdemeanors and a felony related to resisting arrest, but he was since released on $15,000 bail.

The arrest followed a struggle, which was partially filmed, over Portje’s camera and other equipment that he had been using to make a documentary about homelessness in the area. After what seemed to be a rather violent arrest, Portje can be heard on video asking the crowd, “Why are they doing this? Because I asked them questions?”

Tensions have been rising over homeless encampments across California, and Portje’s arrest is the latest exhibition of the conflict. Earlier this year, homeless activists sued over the relocation of a substantial encampment to Marinship Park, which is where Portje was arrested.

Several local publications have also reported that investigations are underway on public employees that have been accused of assaulting homeless residents or housing activists. 

Dresow commented on Portje’s arrest: “Attacking a journalist is the crescendo of governmental arrogance – that they can get away with anything down there.”

Jill Hoffman, Sausalito Mayor, said that police Sgt. Thomas Georges was injured during the arrest. She added that Portje was charged with battery on a police officer, battery on a police officer requiring medical treatment, and resisting a law enforcement officer with violence.

Hoffman added that the incident was sent to the Main County District Attorney’s Office “for review and prosecution,” so the DA will now decide whether charges will be pressed against Portje. 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: SF CHRONICLE

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