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ACLU of Oregon files lawsuit against officers, Trump for ‘excessive force’ used in Portland

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, multiple federal officials and 200 unnamed federal law enforcement officers for their actions during protests in Portland.

“This action arises out of Defendants’ unlawful attempts to crush Black protesters and their supporters, through the use of excessive force and illegal detentions against Plaintiffs in violation of their rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as well as federal statutory law,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit is one of the most comprehensive to date against the federal government for its significant presence at demonstrations in July.

The eight plaintiffs are made up of protesters, military veterans and teachers. They include people who, the lawsuit alleges, were unlawfully detained or were badly injured by excessive use of force.

It includes Mark Pettibone, who was arrested on a downtown street by federal law enforcement officers using unmarked vehicles; Fabiym Acuay, known as Mac Smiff, a Portland-based activist who was shot in the head with an impact munition; Andre Miller, a protester and medic who was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister; and Christopher David, a 53-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who was beaten and maced by federal law enforcement officers after trying to talk to them.

The lawsuit also includes two organizations, the Black Millennial Movement and Rose City Justice. The Black Millennial Movement was formed in the early days of the George Floyd protests with the aim of highlighting the concerns of Black millennials, like student debt and housing. Rose City Justice is a nonprofit that has helped organize protests throughout Portland since the beginning of June.

The lawsuit alleges that as part of Operation Diligent Valor – the name given to the deployment to Portland – federal law enforcement officers “indiscriminately used violent tactics on lawful protesters, including shooting them in the head and body with less-lethal impact munitions and pepper balls, spraying them directly in the face with pepper spray, shoving them to the ground, hitting and beating them with batons, firing massive clouds of tear gas at them, and, in some instances, arresting and detaining them without any lawful basis.”

In addition to naming Trump and the agencies involved, the lawsuit also names acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, and Gabriel Russell, the Northwest’s regional director of the Federal Protective Service, one of the agencies involved in policing protests in Portland.

“Our clients were protesting in support of Black Lives Matter,” Jeremy Sacks, one of the attorneys representing the ACLU, said in a press release. “But they were met by indiscriminate violence from federal police forces intent on squelching their message and their Constitutional rights,”

The lawsuit is seeking damages for the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs as well as a judgment declaring the actions of the Trump administration violated the Constitution and federal law.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jonathan Levinson