ACLU Oregon takes on Portland Police Bureau in class-action lawsuit
The Portland Police Bureau could have to pay up for its response to a June 4 protest and march downtown Portland where it used a tactic called "kettling" to detain hundreds of people, including a number of local, national and freelance journalists, and two legal observers with the American Civil Liberties Union Oregon.
ACLU Oregon has decided to go to bat against the city in a class-action lawsuit that names the city of Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler and police officers Dan DiMatteo, Chris Lindsey, Jason Christensen, Michael Pool, Justin Raphael and Kerri Ottoman. The lawsuit also lists up to 50 "John Doe" police officers, meaning their names could be added to the lawsuit in the future.
The five plaintiffs, Josef Haber, Patrick Garrison, Jennifer Nickolaus, Chris Whaley and Jade Sturms, were caught up as police "kettled" marchers during the protest. "For almost an hour, people were seized by defendant PPB officers, with no access to food or bathrooms," according to the 14-page complaint filed Wednesday, Nov. 15, in U.S. District Court.
"The members of the plaintiff class, including the individual named plaintiffs, were allowed to leave only after defendant PPB officers photographed each individual and recorded their identifying information."
ACLU attorneys claimed in the lawsuit that the city and police officers violated the plaintiffs' Constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection. They also claimed that the "kettling" practice also violated their state constitutional rights by holding them "without individualized reasonable suspicion."
In addition to asking the court to declare the kettling practice unconstitutional, ACLU lawyers are seeking unspecified compensation for the plaintiffs and others in the protest, and legal and court fees.
City officials haven't responded to media requests for comment because of the pending litigation. No court date has been set for the case.
'A minor offense'
The most controversial part of the day's events, which started in a dueling protest between antifa groups at Chapman Square and an alt-right "free speech" rally at Terry Scrunck Plaza, was when officers decided to photograph IDs of everyone in the cordoned off area of about 200 to 250 people, including this reporter and Pamplin Media Group photographer Josh Kulla. Police at the time said that people were being detained pending investigation into disorderly conduct.
They wouldn't let anyone out of the kettle until their IDs were photographed, regardless if journalists had press credentials.
The bureau said they were using the photographs to identify anyone in footage who may have engaged in illegal activity during the protests prior so they could hold them accountable. Police were filming the day's events.
The police bureau later told media that they would destroy the photographs of IDs.
ACLU Oregon issued a statement shortly after protests, saying the strategy was unconstitutional and likely violated state law: "Disorderly conduct is a minor offense and hardly something the police should prioritize at the expense of the constitutional rights of those who were detained."
The June 4 rally and counter protests were held only days after the MAX stabbing when Jeremy Christian, a white supremacist, killed two people and seriously injured another.