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100+ Days of Protests: Cops Use Alarming Violence, Oppose Tear Gas Ban
State Takes Control of PPB; Officers Deputized;
National Guard Mobilized

Many people found it surprising that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) reported using force against crowds over 6000 times between late May and the end of September. There were different image of Sept 16, 2020Portland Tribune article Wheeler bans tear 
gas at protestsreasons for the responses. Some found that number alarmingly high, since the PPB said the total times they used any force at all in 2018 and 2019 combined was 5612. Others were sure it was an undercount, having witnessed PPB tactics first hand at the various protests for racial equality and police accountability which continued for over 100 days after George Floyd's murder by Minneapolis Police. Those in the second camp have reason to be skeptical-- if an officer reported they pushed someone multiple times (or multiple people) without estimating a number, it was counted as one use of force (details--Training Advisory Council article in this issue ). Other developments include the Mayor's September ban on tear gas, state and federal involvement with Portland crowd "control," police continuing to lack identification, and various lawsuits / complaints about misconduct.

The protests suspended their nightly run when Oregon wildfires caused the air to be unbreathable in early September. Around that time, Mayor Ted Wheeler ordered the Bureau to stop using tear gas ("CS" gas) at protests. (Wheeler was hit with tear gas at a protest in July- -PPR #81.) Chief Chuck Lovell pushed back against the Police Commissioner's order (Oregonian, September 20), joined by the Portland Police Association and other law enforcement agencies, warning officers would just turn to higher levels of force without the chemical weapon at their disposal. But that had already started earlier after summer lawsuits led to restrictions for gas only to be used during "riots" and against threats to life/safety. Nearby agencies including the Multnomah County Sheriff were unwilling to help the PPB manage crowds with the ban in place. The Washington and Clackamas Sheriffs also cited the reluctance of Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt to prosecute anyone for low-level offenses related to protests as a reason not to assist.

In late August, a right wing protestor was shot and killed by a self-proclaimed anti-fascist after a pro-Trump caravan drew hundreds of people and vehicles to downtown Portland. In response, right wing demonstrators planned to gather in Portland on September 26. Rather than discuss Schmidt's decision to only prosecute people for actual violent crimes or the inappropriateness of using tear gas during a respiratory-related pandemic, Governor Kate Brown authorized Oregon State Police to take control of local law enforcement for the day. The head of OSP had his officers and nearly 60 Portland Police deputized as US Marshals, allowing the feds to prosecute anyone who threw objects at police with a federal crime. While no significant arrests were made during the alt-right demonstration-- the counter-demonstration took place miles away-- the police made numerous arrests at a separate racial justice protest later that day (Oregonlive, September 27).

After the alt-right demonstration, it was revealed that the federal deputization would last until the end of 2020. When the City Attorney asked the US Attorney to rescind the deputization before then, they refused (Oregonlive, September 30). Chief Lovell claimed he had no idea the deputization was going to be longer than one day (Willamette Week, October 7).

Once the wildfires abated, nightly protests resumed. Anticipating more street brawls after the election, the City and State laid out plans. On October 27, City Council voted to limit the actions of image of Nov 4, 2020, Willamette Week article Witness and 
photos confirm the identity of an aggressive officer wearing that numberdeputized officers, citing a string of state and local policies. Portland Copwatch testified against the use of force by any law enforcement agency, and successfully urged Council to add a reminder that officers cannot collect people's information without suspicion of criminal activity (ORS 181A.250). But that all went out the window when the Governor had the State Police take control of the local police again for most of election week, adding National Guard troops to the mix. While the Guard members did not have firearms, they wore camouflage and carried nightsticks. The Oregonian reported this was the first such mobilization of the Oregon Guard in 50 years (November 6), but did not mention the significance that in 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four anti-war protestors at Kent State University.

Furthermore, federal officers continued working with Portland Police, including an undercover FBI agent who helped arrest a man suspected of breaking windows on the eve of Indigenous Peoples Day. Interesting that the Islamophobic FBI targeted a man named Malik Muhamed. The Department of Homeland Security helped arrest another man who toppled a statue the same night (Oregonlive, October 12).

The ACLU filed a suit saying federal police exceeded their authority when policing street protests (Portland Tribune, September 2). In November, a judge agreed that federal officers who engaged in violent crackdowns on Portland protests in July didn't have training and were not properly authorized for crowd control (Oregonian, November 4). Earlier, President Trump had threatened to withhold funds from what he called "anarchist cities" including Portland, Seattle and New York.

Other issues include:

--Over 1000 people were arrested at the various protests. As of November 25, the DA was pursuing charges against 145 of them, 15% of whom are African American in a city which is 6% Black (mcda.us).

--At least 80 people are being charged with federal crimes, including one man who allegedly poked at a deputized Portland Police officer with an umbrella at a rally more than a week after September 26 (Oregonlive, October 26).

--The PPB spent over $117,000 on crowd control munitions between the end of May and the middle of July (Oregonlive, September 6).

--Robert King, the former PPB Captain/current police advisor to Mayor Wheeler, used a mutual aid agreement meant for responding to emergencies, not policing, to promise other agencies immunity if they helped with crowd control (Oregonian, October 4).

--Law enforcement were reported to be scouring social media for evidence of criminal activity, leading activists to try to find other ways to share information (Street Roots, September 23).

--The national group Physicians for Human Rights issued a report finding officers deliberately targeted medics (Oregonian, October 9).

As for the ongoing issue of hard-to-identify officers committing misconduct, the Willamette Week outed "Officer 67," a particularly brutal cop who struck Elijah Warren in the head near his own home during a protest (September 30), revealing his name as Officer Erik Kammerer (October 7& 21, November 4). After the paper connected the Warren incident to Kammerer, the PPB removed the cop from the streets.

In two other specific cases (of many), one officer pushed a woman using his motorcycle during a demonstration near the Penumbra Kelly Building on NE 47th Ave (Oregonlive, October 3), and Officer Scott Groshong was indicted for using his car to hit a man suspected of stealing from a skateboard store during one night of the protests (Oregonlive, October 23-- details below).

Following the elections and with the arrival of rainy season, the protests became far less regular, and the PPB reassigned Incident Commanders and Rapid Response Team officers (most of whom were the deputized cops) back to their regular duties. However, with the "Independent" Police Review processing over 100 complaints (62 of which alleged excessive force), the specific issue of how the PPB responded to anti-police-violence protests with violence will be with us for months to come.

Officer with Hot-headed History Indicted After Retirement for On-duty Assault with Vehicle

image of Groshong's car and the suspect on the ground from 
Oregonian October 20, 2020 articleAs mentioned in the article on protests (above), Officer Scott Groshong was indicted in October on assault and other charges for driving an unmarked police van into a person he suspected of stealing a helmet from a skateboard shop. Video of the June 15 incident shows a young man being knocked to the ground by Groshong's van, and Groshong not getting out to check on his well being. It's extremely rare for a Portland Police officer to be brought up on criminal charges for on-duty use of force; this is perhaps the third time in over 50 years. The owner of the skateboard shop told the Oregonian (October 23) he thought the van driver was "aggressive," noting he believed it was "some vigilante bystander" and not a police officer. Then-Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner described the now-cleared suspect's bringing charges against a cop for, essentially, hit-and-run as "self serving."

PPR readers may remember Groshong as the officer who grabbed a videographer's camera, prompting a complaint which went to the Citizen Review Committee. CRC found he had violated policy by doing so (PPR #69). Portland Copwatch's records also show Groshong shot a suspect in March, 1998. It's not clear whether Groshong figured he could get away with this new transgression because he was retiring two months later; the indictment was handed down another two months after he retired.
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  People's Police Report

January, 2021
Also in PPR #82

• 100+ Days of Protests and Police Violence
  Officer Indicted for On-Duty Assault with Vehicle
Portland Out of Compliance with DOJ Agreement
Oversight Board Continues; New System Voted In
No PPB Shootings but Two Incidents in Washington
  • State Deadly Force Incidents Pass Average Despite Pandemic
Outside Report Knocks '18 Shooting of Black Man
New Profililng Reports Show Same Disparities
Houseless Community Faces Winter, COVID, Sweeps
Terror Task Force: Community Wants Full Withdrawal
Training Council Analyzes Use of Force
 • Second Round of Police Budget Cuts Scuttled
 • Police Contract Talks to Restart in January
 • Lawsuits Total Nearly $16 M in 28 Years
 • New "Brady Rule" Policy and Other Policies Posted
Rapping Back #82

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #82 Table of Contents
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