Eugene Journalist and Civil Liberties Defense Center to Sue City

Jul 30, 2020

A Eugene journalist is suing police for hitting him with tear gas and other non-lethal crowd control devices at a protest in late May. The suit also names the City of Eugene and some of its leaders.

 

A police BearCat vehicle near campus where Houston was hit by a tear gas canister
Credit Henry Houston

 

Henry Houston, news reporter for the Eugene Weekly, told KLCC he was targeted by police with non-lethal munitions multiple times the night of May 31st. Houston said he identified himself as a member of the press while recording police interactions with protestors.

 

“One of the police officers told me that there’s a curfew and to go home,” said Houston, “and I told them that I’m protected down to the first amendment and I’m exempt from the curfew. The police officer said something like ‘I don’t care.’ 

 

While I was recording the response, I was hit by a tear gas canister and shot by pepper balls despite identifying myself as a journalist several times.”

 

The city released a statement to KLCC about Houston’s incident, and how they plan to take steps to increase visibility and safety for members of the press in similar situations. City Manager Sarah Medary and the EPD Chief reached out to both Houston and the Weekly the next day.

 

Houston has teamed up with the Civil Liberties Defense Center to bring the City of Eugene, the City Manager, and four “John Doe” officers to court, as the EPD has declined to name the police involved in the incident.

 

According to Houston’s CLDC attorney Marianne Dugan, the legal case will be made on the grounds the city’s curfew allowed police to use excessive force on the people of Eugene, regardless of their affiliation and circumstances.

 

“It’s particularly egregious,” Dugan said, “because he’s a member of the press and told them so, and the response on the video was ‘it doesn’t matter.’ The whole pattern that night was unconstitutional of driving around randomly and scatter-shot shooting at people.”

 

Dugan said the city accepted court service, and has asked if Houston’s team is open to settlement. Houston claims he’s not pursuing legal action for money, instead he seeks policy changes so that reporters and law-abiding citizens alike are not subject to unfair treatment by police.

 

Copyright KLCC, 2020.