When Portland Police Face Off With Protesters, Sergio Olmos Is There—With a Video Camera

For five consecutive nights, he’s been at the front lines. If he’s lucky, he gets four hours of sleep a night.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

A crowd surges to the glass doors of the Multnomah County Justice Center and pauses—then someone begins smashing the glass. Looters laugh in Pioneer Place as they realize they've made it to the racks of Louis Vuitton. Police officers chuck tear gas at protesters from the back of a moving truck, then speed away.

Sergio Olmos was there. Because of him, thousands of people across Oregon felt like they were, too.

Olmos is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Underscore, Crosscut, WW and the Portland Tribune. He's covered Portland's street protests and brawls for years.

So when protests of the police killing of George Floyd emerged in Portland last week, Olmos was ready, equipped with video equipment and a honed instinct for where conflict would ensue. Like many freelancers covering protests, he posts videos of the most dramatic or powerful scenes to his Twitter account, and sometimes sells newsworthy clips to media companies.

Here's what he shot June 2:

For five consecutive nights, he's been at the front lines where police and protesters face off. If he's lucky, he gets four hours of sleep a night.

He talks to WW news editor Aaron Mesh about what the mood is like in a group of people looting a store, why it's hard to tell what police officers are thinking, and the hardest part of being a freelancer covering riots.