On February 20, 2017, while gathered in front of the Edith Wyatt Federal Building for the Not My Presidents Day protest, Charles Stubbs, Tristan Romine-Mann, and Margaret "Peggy" Zebrowski were each subjected to excessive use of force by the police.
Tristan was pushed to the ground and hit with a police bicycle repeatedly. He was forced to his knees and restrained before a Portland Police officer pepper sprayed him directly in the face at close range. Tristan is suing the city for up to $10,000 and costs.
To begin I must acknowledge our presence on stolen land of the Kalapuya people.
My name is Tristan Isaac. Among other things, I am an activist and community organizer with OPAL Environmental Justice. I moved to Portland, Oregon about three years ago and have been politically active in the city for nearly as long. It’s been a little more than a year since I participated in a nonviolent protest against police brutality in downtown Portland. Though I didn't know it at the time, the events of that day would have a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. In fact, I was so sure that the day would be like any other that I neglected to even inform my employer of my plans despite being scheduled to work later that afternoon.
My decision to attend the rally was very much a gut reaction to the state of the world; the inauguration, law enforcement response to recent protests and most importantly to me, the murder of 17 year-old Quanice Hayes at the hands of Portland police officers mere days prior to the protest. The death of Quanice, affectionately known as Moose by his family and friends, had a very strong influence on me--Moose could have easily been my own little brother and the death of young black men never gets easier to endure.
On that day, I chose to use my right to free speech and peaceful assembly and stand up for my values of justice, community and solidarity alongside many others. In response, I was unjustly targeted by officers of the Portland Police Bureau who used overwhelming force, excessive physical violence, chemical weapons, detention, isolation and denial of legal rights to oppress myself and others.
The Portland Police Bureau’s use of chemical weapons, naked aggression and violent, military-style tactics and equipment against peaceful protesters is an unconscionable act. The role of police is to protect and serve the public peace to which acts such as executing unarmed teenagers and wrestling old women to the ground are antithetical.
The sight of a bloc of police clad in faceless riot armor and armed with heavy batons does not engender feelings of safety. It is a deliberate tactic of intimidation utilized by the Portland Police Bureau to frighten individuals into not expressing their constitutionally protected rights. Given the general attitude of the Portland Police Bureau in response to calls for community accountability, it would seem that they are more interested in protecting the ability of their officers to act extra-judiciously without being held responsible.
I am participating in this lawsuit against the City of Portland to hold the Portland Police Bureau accountable for the conduct of its officers and to correct the disturbing trends of militarization of police and suppression of civil liberties in Oregon and nationwide. I am extraordinarily grateful to the ACLU for their support and counsel throughout the past several months.
Additionally, on all days but International Women's Day in particular, it's extremely important to highlight the integral role women play in social justice work. Several individuals I would like to personally thank are my correspondents with the ACLU Sarah Einowski and Sarah Armstrong for their patience and expertise, my fellow plaintiffs Peggy, Kat, Kelly and Patricia for showing up and holding space and especially Teressa Raiford of Don't Shoot PDX for being a tireless, invincible advocate along with countless other adored ones leading movements for justice and equality worldwide.