PORTLAND, Ore. — On September 8, 2021, Council for the City of Portland approved a $50,000 settlement between the City of Portland and Michelle Fawcett for permanent disfiguring injuries suffered by Fawcett from Portland police violence. The settlement is in response to an incident in which Michelle Fawcett was permanently injured and disfigured after being shot with a flash-bang grenade by police officers while she was attending a Portland community protest against bigotry and intolerance on August 4, 2018.
In her lawsuit against the City of Portland, Fawcett was represented by the ACLU Foundation of Oregon pro bono attorneys Steven Wilker and Jeffrey Bradford of Tonkon Torp LLP.
The ACLU of Oregon Legal Director Kelly Simon said:
“Our First Amendment right to join with fellow community members in protest and peaceful assembly is critical to our democracy.
Michelle Fawcett is an individual of courage. She stood up against hate and bigotry by engaging in peaceful protest against hate groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys that promote white supremacy, anti-government extremism, and intolerance. Although Ms. Fawcett did not engage with police or do anything to provoke their violence, police caused Ms. Fawcett to be permanently disfigured by firing a flash-bang grenade directly at her and other fellow community members.
It is fundamentally wrong that the City of Portland allows its so-called public safety officers to hurt community members like Ms. Fawcett, which requires payments of taxpayer monies to account for police violence. ACLU of Oregon legal observers have documented repeated patterns of Portland police engaging in violent actions towards community members who protest systemic racism or hate groups, while the police engage in cooperative or tacitly supportive actions towards hate groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys. The City of Portland needs to make fundamental changes to the Portland Police Bureau so that the police follow the law and support our communities instead of harming them.
It is not lost on us that as this settlement was approved, the City of Portland also announced it will not hold its so-called public safety officers to the same public health standards involving COVID-19 vaccines as other city employees. If the police cannot put public safety first, then we should reinvest our public taxpayer monies in efforts proven to protect the safety of all of us, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color residents and others not historically served or protected by police.”
During daytime hours on August 4, 2018, Fawcett was in downtown Portland with a group of about 1,000 members of the community; they had gathered to stand against the bigotry and hate promoted by a Patriot Prayer gathering permitted by the City for that day. Patriot Prayer is a group that has hosted and promoted rallies regularly attended by various white supremacist, anti-government extremist, and hate groups like the Proud Boys.
At about 1:45pm that day, Portland police fired several flash-bang grenades into the community members gathered against the Patriot Prayer gathering. One grenade hit Fawcett who felt immediate, searing pain in her chest and arm. Fawcett was completely caught off guard by the police violence as the atmosphere had been calm and she had received no notice that police would be firing the grenades. She did not know what was happening and thought she may die. On that day and during other protests, many community members have suffered significant injuries from Portland police violence.