PORTLAND, Ore. - The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) today filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland on behalf of the approximately 200 - 250 protesters for their mass detention via a police tactic called a “kettle” on June 4 in downtown Portland.
“This isn’t the first time the Portland Police have kettled protesters, but we hope it will be the last time we see the mass detention of innocent people in our city,” said Sarah Einowski, a lawyer at Tonkon Torp LLP who is representing the plaintiffs pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.
The suit names five plaintiffs who were held in the kettle: Patrick Garrison, a 23-year-old volunteer legal observer with the ACLU of Oregon who wore a marked, bright blue vest; Jade Strums, 27, who works as a graphic designer; Josef Haber, an acupuncturist; and Chris Whaley, 41, and Jennifer Nickolaus, 38, a married couple who own a restaurant in Portland.
The day of the kettle, thousands of people took to the streets in downtown Portland to show their disapproval of the “Trump Free Speech Rally,” an “alt-right” gathering that came only days after a self-proclaimed white-supremacist stabbed three men, killing two, on a MAX train after the men stood up to him when he was insulting two teenage girls.
As the heavily policed Trump Free Speech Rally ended, law enforcement ordered counter protesters to leave Chapman Square and tear gas and pepper balls were deployed. The counter protesters marched as directed north on Southwest Fourth Avenue, but a few blocks later, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers surrounded the protesters and blocked them in. Protesters, media, legal observers, and bystanders were detained in the street and not allowed to leave for nearly an hour, with no access to food or bathrooms. At one point, police shot pepper bullets into a group who attempted to leave through a parking garage. Before being released, officers photographed every individual and recorded their identifying information.
“I find it extremely troubling that the police photographed and ID'd those of us who were kettled,” said plaintiff Sturms. “What is law enforcement using that information for?”
“The kettling of individuals and the refusal to let clearly innocent people free until they had been photographed and documented was a new low for our city,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon.
Dos Santos say that the Portland Police Bureau’s “heavy-handed” tactics against protesters are a problem because they stop members of the public from participating in gatherings and protests.
“The City of Portland is known as place where people regularly gather to exercise their First Amendment right to protest. But disproportionate, often violent, response by Portland Police to mass demonstrations has a chilling effect on our right to free speech and expression,” said dos Santos.
Jennifer Nickolaus, a 38-year-old restaurant owner in Portland, said she and her husband contacted the ACLU of Oregon after the kettle because they were upset with how the police treated the counter protesters.
“The Portland Police have repeatedly escorted and protected the alt-right groups while, at the same time, violently quashing the protesters on the left, and denying us the right to peacefully assemble,” Nickolaus said.
The ACLU of Oregon offered extensive comments to Portland’s Portland Police Bureau’s Crowd Control Directive earlier this year, but their proposed changes were not adopted. The organization also released a report to the Independent Police Review Board that analyzing the police response on June 4 and found several areas where the response fell short.
Lawyers for plaintiffs include Steven Wilker, Sarah Einowski, Alex Tinker, and Megan Reuther of Tonkon Torp LLP and Mat dos Santos and Kelly Simon of the ACLU of Oregon.