PORTLAND, Ore. -- The ACLU of Oregon today filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of Michelle Fawcett, who was permanently injured after being shot with a flash-bang grenade by police officers while attending a protest on August 4, 2018. The lawsuit is seeking $250,000 in damages for Fawcett who suffered third-degree chemical burns, major impact wounds, major soft-tissue damage, as well as mental and emotional distress.
“The police are supposed to protect and serve, but instead they shot me and other peaceful protesters with military-grade weapons,” said Michelle Fawcett, a 54-year-old Portland resident.
Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon said that the protest Fawcett participated in was met with excessive force, as Portland Police Bureau officers in riot gear used military-grade munitions on the crowd.
“These deadly weapons are meant to be shot overhead, but the police instead fired them directly into groups of innocent people,” Carson said. “To our knowledge, no other police force in America uses crowd control weapons with the regularity of the Portland Police Bureau.”
In a 2015 report on the health consequences of crowd control weapons by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations and Physicians for Human Rights, the groups wrote that stun grenades carry a high risk of injury, despite their frequent use in civilian police operations. They concluded that “[t]hese weapons have no place in effective crowd management, intervention, and control.”
Though protesters were known to have sustained serious injuries at the August 4, 2018 event, Portland Police Chief Outlaw said on a radio program that the Portland Police Bureau “kicked their butts” in reference to counter protesters. Fawcett said the comment made her feel despair. Despite that sense of hopelessness, Fawcett moved forward with the lawsuit because of the fundamental freedoms at stake.
“At this critical time, I realize I must do what I can to ensure that people are free to gather together to exercise our First Amendment free-speech rights to reject racism, violence, and the rising tide of white nationalism and authoritarianism in our country and in our community.”
This is the eighth lawsuit the ACLU of Oregon and pro bono attorneys at Tonkon Torp have filed on behalf of protesters in Portland who have been injured by police or illegally detained. Attorneys on the case include Jeff Bradford, Steven Wilker of Tonkon Torp and Mat dos Santos of the ACLU of Oregon.
Photos of Michelle Fawcett, credit Doug Brown, are online at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lfqksdbzhvcfaof/AADJ1-1ZC-6ucdVEsb2Xgu-Ta?dl=...
A live stream of the press conference announcing the lawsuit is online at https://www.pscp.tv/w/1djGXplrLQOGZ.