ACLU sues Portland for injuring 'peaceful' protester
In a new lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union says Portland City Hall is liable for the injuries inflicted on an attendee at a downtown protest.
The ACLU seeks $250,000 on behalf of Michelle Fawcett, who was allegedly struck in the chest and arm by a flashbang grenade while "peacefully protesting against bigotry and intolerance," on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018.
Jann Carson, interim executive director for the local branch of the influential nonprofit organization, said at a press conference that the use of "military grade munitions" by the Portland Police Bureau constituted "excessive force."
"These deadly weapons are meant to be shot overhead, but the police instead fired them directly into groups of innocent people," Carson said.
On the chaotic day in question, officers in riot gear used batons, pepper spray, flashbangs and rubber bullets to clear Southwest Columbia Street of a large crowd of counter-protesters, who were blocked by a skirmish line at Naito Parkway from confronting a group of conservative Patriot Prayer supporters, who were unharmed during the resulting tumult.
Police Chief Danielle Outlaw faced intense scrutiny for using crowd control tactics on only one side, though a sound truck had broadcast warnings ordering the crowd to disperse before the officers' frenzied charge.
"This wasn't folks that were just coming to just march peacefully and demonstrate, sing Kumbaya and go on their way," Outlaw said days later, noting that four people were arrested and several squad cars were vandalized during the incident.
The ACLU, however, claims Fawcett suffered permanent injuries, including third-degree chemical burns, soft tissue damage, impact wounds, mental and emotional distress, depression and nightmares. She reports missing work and has been afraid to leave her home at times and exercise her right to peaceful assembly.
Fawcett read from prepared remarks and answered questions from reporters during the 20-minute press conference.
"I felt that it was my duty to stand against violence, bigotry and hatred in our community," Fawcett said. "My recovery has been slow and painful… I no longer feel safe in my community."
"It was the police that attacked me."
The ACLU says this suit — filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday, Aug. 5 — is one of eight to be filed on behalf of protesters in Portland who were allegedly injured or unlawfully detained by police. Tonkon Torp law firm is representing the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis.
Click here to watch a full video of the press conference captured by the Tribune's news partner, KOIN 6 News.
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