Trial set for reporter arrested during park camper evictions in Medford

A photo posted to the Medford Police Facebook page on September 22, 2020, shows officers speaking with campers in Hawthorne Park.
May 4, 2022

April Ehrlich was reporting for JPR on encampment sweep in September 2020

By Stephen Floyd for Ashland.news

An Ashland-based reporter arrested in Medford in 2020 during the city’s sweep of a Medford homeless camp has been given a trial date of this August on misdemeanor charges.

April Ehrlich, currently a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting, is scheduled for trial Sept. 16 and 19, 2022, in Medford Municipal Court. She is charged with resisting arrest and trespassing, and faces up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

April Ehrlich

Ehrlich, who has been charged under her legal name, April Fonseca, has denied wrongdoing. Her attorney, Portland-based defense lawyer Stephen Houze, said they plan to vigorously contest the charges. 

Despite outcry against Ehrlich’s arrest and prosecution, Medford has said it is treating Ehrlich’s case the same as a criminal proceeding against any other defendant. 

Ehrlich was arrested Sept. 22, 2020, while covering the eviction of nearly 100 campers at Hawthorne Park in downtown Medford. At the time she was a reporter for Ashland-based Jefferson Public Radio.

JPR reporter April Ehrlich is led away from Hawthorne Park by Medford Police officers shortly after her arrest in this screenshot taken from a video posted on Twitter by @mtd2025 on Sept. 22, 2020.

The number of campers in the park had surged during the COVID-19 pandemic and again after the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8, two weeks prior to the arrest, destroyed thousands of area residences. The Medford city manager’s office, citing “unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” ordered the park closed to the public. Though the city suggested alternative shelter options, advocates for campers said these alternatives were either already full, impractical due to the pandemic, or had other barriers to access.

In anticipation of police action, Ehrlich and other reporters arrived at the park early that morning and began interviewing campers. When police arrived, journalists were told to gather in a designated press area at an entrance to the park away from the evictions.

Ehrlich refused to remain in the designated area, as she said she could not adequately observe police actions or record audio. When she attempted to re-enter the park, multiple officers detained her and she was placed under arrest, then booked into and released from the Jackson County Jail.

Numerous groups have since condemned the city’s actions as a violation of Ehrlich’s First Amendment rights, including American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Committee to Protect Journalists and Society of Professional Journalists (at the time of her arrest, Ehrlich was vice president of SPJs Oregon chapter). 

The Medford Mail Tribune has requested a copy of police body camera footage to confirm the city’s allegations against Ehrlich, however the city has denied this request on the grounds that the footage is evidence in an ongoing investigation and, they say, releasing it prior to conclusion of the case may compromise Ehrlich’s ability to receive a fair trial.

Email freelance reporter Stephen Floyd at sfloydmedia@gmail.com.

May 5 update: Date for trail corrected to say Sept. 16 and 19, not Aug. 30, 2022.

Share this article

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Latest posts

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More >

Ashland Fire & Rescue warns of intensified wildfire seasons

Ashland Fire & Rescue has warned of more intense fire seasons in years to come as local impacts of climate change become more apparent. Division Chief Chris Chambers told the City Council Tuesday, Aug. 2, that coming fire seasons could see an increase in acres burned of between 200 and 400 percent.

Read More >

Birds’-Eye View: An Ashland-based bird conservation organization

Birds’-Eye View: Ashland-based nonprofit Klamath Bird Observatory keeps on eye on bird life in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. Since birds are a key indicator species and migratory paths from much of the Western Hemisphere pass through this area, KBO data helps inform natural resource management on a broad scale.

Read More >

One Hiroshima survivor nurtures seedling sprouted from another survivor

The 77th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, was marked in Ashland for the 38th year on Saturday. A capacity crowd gathered at Thalden Pavilion, site of an eternal World Peace Flame, to hear remarks and celebrate the planting of a gingko tree sprouted from seeds from a tree that survived the Hiroshima inferno.

Read More >
Peter-Sage Ashland Oregon

Explore More...

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More>
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)