The city of Portland, Oregon, settled a lawsuit with five protesters and a community advocacy organization over the use of force by the city’s police department during the George Floyd protests and riots of 2020.
“This is a win for organizers and antifascist activists everywhere,” said Teressa Raiford, founder and executive director of Don’t Shoot Portland. “Our freedom of expression is the foundation of how we make social change possible. We’re grateful to everyone – all of our supporters and our individual donors – who made it possible to bring this lawsuit. Black lives still matter. Stay in the streets.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 in response to the Portland Police Bureau deploying tear gas and crowd control devices on protesters who flooded the city’s streets following the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis in May of that year.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center announced the settlement Tuesday, which includes “a 14-month injunction on police use of force,” the group said on its Facebook page. Officers will also no longer be able to use rubber ball distraction devices and must destroy any such devices in their possession.
“We will be vigilantly watching PPB over the next 14 months,” Ashlee Albies, an attorney who represented the protesters, told KOIN.
The settlement awards $50,001 to plaintiffs Nicholas J. Roberts, Michelle “Misha” Belden, Alexandra Johnson, Lester Wrecksie, and Thomas Dreier, KPTV reported. Advocacy group Don’t Shoot Portland “will receive a symbolic $1 award,” according to the Oregon Justice Resource Center.
“By their own account, [Portland Police Bureau] officers used force against protesters more than 6000 times between the start of the protests in May 2020 and the end of September that year,” the Oregon nonprofit said on Facebook.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said Tuesday the settlement “fairly and appropriately resolves the case to provide certainty for all parties.”
“There have been many important changes since 2020 concerning the City’s response to demonstrations, including changes to state law and the Police Bureau’s policies, the City’s work toward body worn camera implementation, improved crowd management trainings, the discontinued use of rubber ball distraction devices, and others,” the mayor’s office continued.
After the lawsuit was filed in 2020, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Marco Hernandez issued an injunction restricting when the city could use tear gas and other crowd control methods. The judge found the city in contempt of the injunction in December of that year, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
That same judge will also oversee the enforcement of the judgment for the next 14 months.
Portland saw near-constant protests and riots in 2020 following George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day that year, with protests spilling over into 2021.
The city recorded at least 100 consecutive nights of protests and riots beginning in the summer of 2020, with businesses burned and looted, an “autonomous zone” established that resisted police interference, more than $2 million in damage to federal buildings, and business owners decrying their lost income and subsequent damages from the rioters.