People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Teens and Anti-Eviction Activists Attacked by Cops
Event organizers decided to exercise their First Amendment rights without a city-authorized permit. The family-friendly march went on without incident until police blocked activists from accessing NE 14th. Cops then let loose, stripping protesters of protective banners and pepper-spraying openly in the crowd. Bike cops fell back, allowing riot cops to come in and violently shove the remaining activists away from the empty intersection. Most of those pepper-sprayed were high school students opposing budget cuts to their education, but also caught in the crossfire were Bike Swarmer Michael Hernandez, activist Cameron Whitten, and 75 year old "Granny" Nan Wigmore.
Hernandez was picked up leaving work Friday, November 9--nearly a week after the event. PPB reviewed evidence afterward and said Hernandez was trying to push through a police line with his bike. Hernandez faces charges including attempted assault and interfering with a peace officer. He was also stripped of his main transportation when PPB kept his bike "Darlene" as evidence.
OccupyPortlandNews.com released a video with audio from the police scanner stating "If they use the shield as an offensive unit against us, pepper-spray is authorized for those using the shield." On the video, officers are shown repeatedly spraying activists standing with their hands in the air waving flags, and others who are kneeling on the ground nowhere near the "shields" (banners).
Days later, about 20 of the students held a news conference at City Hall, saying the pepper-spraying left them with PTSD symptoms such as inability to sleep and anxiety linked to hearing sirens or seeing police. Many have filed complaints against the PPB. They claim the event won't keep them from protesting, but rather has galvanized them to carry on working peacefully to advocate for change.
Previously, on October 30, three deputies showed up to evict Patricia Williams and Darren Johnson from their SE Pardee home due to a legal dispute over the mortgage. About 50 nonviolent community members arrived to support Williams and Johnson, carrying signs in "a roving picket line." Over thirty PPB officers including riot cops were called for back up as several activists entered the home. When the officers arrived, they drew long guns, pepper sprayed several community members and arrested one person in the house. Notably involved in this eviction is Captain Mark Kruger, known to sport Nazi uniforms in his leisure time and disciplined for building a memorial to WWII German soldiers on Rocky Butte (PPR #52).
Meanwhile, Occupiers arrested from the Jamison Square eviction in 2011 are still waiting to see if they will have jury trials. Forty-nine Occupiers may still win the right to have juries hear their cases after their misdemeanors were reduced to violations. Judge Cheryl Albrecht ruled on October 15 that Occupy Portland defendants who had their misdemeanors downgraded would still have the right to jury trials, based on a previous Oregon Court of Appeals ruling. District Attorney Mike Schrunk has appealed Albrecht's ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is expected to take a few months to decide. After all the delays, Occupiers may now be able to argue they have been denied their right to speedy trials.
Occupiers Liz Nichols and Justin Bridges are taking their fights to court. Bridges is suing Portland and eight officers involved in his arrest, claiming police re-aggravated severe back injuries and caused extensive pain by dragging him out of the crowd during the November 13, 2011 Occupy eviction at Lownsdale Square. Bridges has been wheelchair-bound ever since. Nichols' claim of excessive force comes from the November 17, 2011 protest, when Officer Doris Paisley pushed her back from the street with a nightstick to the neck and Sergeant Jeffrey McDaniel unloaded pepper spray into her open mouth (PPR #55). Nichols fell to the ground and Paisley dragged her behind the arrest line by her hair. The DOJ report dinged the PPB for using less-lethal weapons against passive resisters who have mental illnesses (article), but their report is also relevant to the PPB's methods of crowd control here.
Another anti-foreclosure event was held November 9 when around 60 activists met at the Multnomah County Building to demand Sheriff Dan Staton place a moratorium on foreclosures. However, Staton had left early and was not present when families shared stories of how the Sherrif's eviction practices had been used against them, religious leaders discussed taking a moral stand, and We Are Oregon delivered a letter further demanding the Sheriff confront the housing crisis by stopping the use of public money to help "big banks' access to our communities'' wealth."
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.