People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Police Attack May Day Marchers
Just about every year since the May Day melee of 2000 (PPR #21), Portland Copwatch has been invited to observe police behavior at the annual workers'/immigrant rights marches in Portland. While often the worst misconduct we observe is missing or obscured name tags (which we saw again), this year the PPB reacted to the crowd deviating from its permitted march route by using various weapons. We witnessed use of pepper spray both against individuals and indiscriminately on crowds, batons, at least one flash-bang grenade and multiple exploding shotgun rounds whose shell casings were literally labelled "BANG." As noted in PPR #65, the Bureau is reviewing its Crowd Control Directive, and Chief O'Dea told City Council in January that he would consider their comments, those made by the Citizen Review Committee and testifiers about various issues including use of force.
It seems a combination of that Directive not being finalized or trained on, and the usual problem of the PPB inviting in officers from other agencies helped add to the chaos on May 1. For example, it may be that the officers who fired the "bang" rounds were from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. PPB officers sprayed a KGW cameraman from the back of a personnel carrier while they were retreating from the crowd. Had the officers sent the vehicle ahead and walked briskly to catch up with it, there would have been no reason for them to fear the crowd that flowed in behind them on the street. The Deputies (we think) then set off explosive noise devices by launching them over the crowd as a distraction as the carrier drove off, dumping one officer in the street. This is like a magician doing a disappearing act by throwing firecrackers into the audience. Our video shows the people closest to the officers were not posing any threat, and barely reacted to the explosive devices, while one of the officers seemed surprised by the first "bang."
We also witnessed the pepper spraying of a young man on the bridge, who was flipping off officers. They reacted by putting hands on, using a baton to push, and deploying pepper spray. They also used pepper spray by Pioneer Courthouse when their new sound vehicle (which broadcasts police commands over an LRAD system, a device created for military use that can be weaponized by focusing ear-splitting sounds in a narrow beam) was surrounded by protestors. A woman got sprayed directly in the mouth, apparently by Sgt. Franz Schoening (#41832).
In our letter to the Chief expressing concern, we noted a few positives, such as the decision not to mobilize the Mounted Patrol, the initial hands-off attitude when the march first deviated from its course, and less videotaping by their Forensics Unit (which we've noted in the past is a violation of ORS 181.575 when there's no suspicion of criminal activity).
Though KGW showed the point-of-view footage of their cameraman being sprayed, they didn't make any complaint about the indiscriminate nature of the pepper spray. The Oregonian, for their part, ran an article headlined "Protests interrupt commute," though it did mention the use of force in the opening sentence.
See PCW's letter to Chief O'Dea about May Day at http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/may day2015.html.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.