ACLU of Oregon files class-action lawsuit against Portland police, city

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) — The ACLU of Oregon on Sunday announced it has filed a class-action lawsuit against Portland police and the city of Portland. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of journalists and legal observers who they say were targeted and attacked by police while documenting the recent protests in Portland.

The ACLU says police have fired rubber bullets at journalists and legal observers, tear-gassed them, pepper-sprayed them in the face, beat them with batons, and thrown flash bangs directly at them.

Police have also arrested journalists and legal observers, according to the ACLU.

“They have an absolute constitutional right to record what’s going on and report that to the rest of the world,” Co-counsel Matt Borden said.

The suit outlines more than a dozen examples of what the ACLU calls targeting, including video from KBOO reporter Cory Elia showing him getting pepper sprayed in the face as he was live streaming while walking through a park. In the video, you can see an officer turn abruptly, and without warning, spray Elia in the eyes. The spray gets on the camera lens.

“They just sprayed me,” Elia yelled in the video. “I’m down, I can’t see,” he continues from the ground.

Two ACLU legal observers are listed as plaintiffs in the case. Legal observers attend protests to watch and document interactions between protestors and police. Doug Brown is one of the plaintiffs.

In the complaint, Brown said police fired flash bangs directly at him, hit him with their batons, and also threatened to arrest him.

“They’re calling out, ‘hey ACLU guy, hey you in the ACLU vest, get out of here or you’re going to be arrested,'” Brown said.

According to the court document, rubber bullets barely missed legal observer Kat Mahoney’s head on June 10.

“In this past month, I’ve seen police violence on a level I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been doing this since about 2017,” Mahoney said.

The four other plaintiffs in the case are independent, freelance journalists.

The lawsuit seeks an order to declare law enforcement’s actions unconstitutional and prohibit them from targeting and attacking journalists again. The suit also seeks damages for injuries sustained.

FOX 12 reached out to the Portland Police Bureau, but have not heard back.

A spokesperson with the city of Portland said the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Borden, with BraunHagey & Borden LLP, expects the case will be heard in court soon.

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