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Friday, May 4, 2012

May Day Groups Decry Cops' Tackling, Bashing of Marchers Over "Minor Traffic Violations"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Eugene Ryan says he was grabbed from the sidewalk by police and punched in the face.
  • Paul Cone—Portland Occupier
  • Eugene Ryan says he was grabbed from the sidewalk by police and punched in the face.
After a few days of poring over photos and sharing stories of rough arrests by Portland Police Bureau on May Day—reports of tackles, hair-pulling, punches, bikes used for things besides riding, etc.—organizers and other participants in Tuesday's massive protests gathered on the steps of the Justice Center this morning and accused officers of resorting to police brutality all in the name of enforcing "minor traffic violations."

Eugene Ryan, one of the 36 people arrested Tuesday, showed off his scabbed, scuffed-up nose and eye socket for for news cameras. He calmly described his arrest during the unpermitted general strike march that ambled through downtown in the afternoon and took a whacking from bike and riot cops who didn't want people on the streets.

He wasn't plucked from the street, but a sidewalk, he says. And then, without warning, punched in the face repeatedly by an officer who refused to give him his name or badge number. While he was punched, he says, he was being "almost crucified"—pulled by officers on one side, and by protesters trying to "de-arrest" him on the other.

After being held for five hours in handcuffs, and being ignored, Ryan says, when asking for medical treatment for his bleeding wounds, he was booked on charges that included assaulting a police officer (a felony) and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dropped—"because that never happened"—and now he faces some misdemeanor charges including interfering with a police officer.

He called the treatment of marchers wildly out of line—"especially for a small violation such as jaywalking."

Lieutenant Chris Davis, right, of internal affairs.
Ryan's story was hardly surprising to the two reporters we sent out to the unpermitted march. Both said the marchers were pleasant and well-behaved and that any anger or shouting at the cops began only after the officers first got rough with protesters. Jim Canright of the Elk Law Krew made the point at the news conference that Portland had more arrests than in cities like Seattle or Oakland where protesters were, you know, actually smashing windows and lighting police cars on fire.

Portland saw "an alarming level of force that would best be described as brutality," he said. "Most of those arrested were beaten.

Police later responded to the accusations with a statement that promised to look into any improper use of force. In an interesting development, Lieutenant Chris Davis, a member of the internal affairs division that investigates misconduct complaints, was on hand at the news conference, taking notes.

Police also tried to draw a distinction between the relatively light touch they used during the permitted May Day march (which still saw a visit from the riot cops and at least one arrest) and the unpermitted events that followed and preceded it. (TV reporters also picked up that thread at the press conference). And the bureau also sought to counter the bounty of photographs and video footage showing people taken down while marching or standing around.

"May Day, as with all other Portland demonstrations, was widely filmed by media and members of the community," said the statement. "Portland Police officers are well aware of the continuous filming and as an organization, the Portland Police Bureau welcomes the filming as a way to further increase transparency. As with any video, however, it must be shown in full context and not edited to remove relevant footage."

But Organizers from the groups behind the May Day actions—all of them, permitted or not—said they reject any argument that not having a permit while marching in the street, exercising First Amendment rights, somehow justifies officers using bikes and fists to strike people.

"When police attack one member of our community, they attack all of us," says Kari Koch, an organizer with Occupy Portland.

Read the full May Day and police statements here.


On Tuesday, May 1st, the Portland Police Bureau violently attacked and arrested more than three dozen May Day organizers and protesters using a level of force that would be best characterized as brutality.

The organizations, groups, and coalitions represented below all actively participated in May Day marches, rallies, and liberations. Our members and supporters celebrated International Workers' Day on the streets, in the parks, and from the sidewalks of this city. We condemn the brutal attacks on May Day protesters, and demand that all charges be dropped immediately. Permitted or unpermitted, official or spontaneous, all the actions yesterday were valid and important challenges to the real inequality and reinforced powerlessness we face each day. Let us be clear, we believe that all the people involved in the marches, demonstrations, and actions on May Day are part of the legitimate movement for social and economic justice - not just our members or those people participating in sanctioned actions. Our events may have been separated by time and space, but we are united in our condemnation of the violence perpetrated by the Portland Police Bureau. No one deserves to be brutalized by the police, ever, especially not for minor traffic violations such as jaywalking.

The actions of the police are part of a clear national trend towards increasing repression for what many of us consider to be the most powerful social movement in our lifetimes. Just as we are united with our fellow organizers across the country and around the globe, the Portland Police Bureau cannot separate itself from the continued acts of aggression of the NYPD or the Oakland Police Department. At a national level, we are being forced to fight for the already constitutional given space to speak our minds, and to make real the visions brought forward by proponents of the occupy movement and its related political universe.

As May Day organizers and participants we stand together in condemning the abuses of those who engage in repressive violence then hide behind "law and order." The May Day repression is only the most recent example of the police violence that our communities face each day. The struggles around Trayvon Martin, Occupy, and May Day have brought to light what many know and live on a daily basis. Police in the US are a primary line of defense in maintaining the domination of the 1%. We stand with all of those who suffer under such a system - and we see no division between any who protested on Mayday, nor those hassled, beaten, incarcerated, and killed on a daily basis.

Unfortunately we already know that as simple community members and as working people, the Mayor and the police force are not naturally inclined to respond to our needs. We do not have the influence of the downtown Portland business community. On Monday the Mayor says "I’m focusing on foreclosure" and on Tuesday the police threaten people who are fighting against bank evictions and marching for workers' rights. In the afternoon Sam Adams appears to hear the desires of students on the doorstep of City Hall, and that very evening the police force he purportedly commands attacks some of those same students with batons as they march through town.

The police distribute a memo to downtown businesses, or "clients," assuring exceptional customer service on May Day. Clearly, the police bureau's clients are those whom they prioritize serving and protecting, while those who are organizing for social justice are deemed as the dangerous and criminal elements in society. This is unconscionable, though not unexpected. The police have a long and storied history of repressing social movements in which they have protected the people and institutions that perpetuate the conditions that create social, economic, and political inequality while bringing violence into our communities.

Although not each of us was a firsthand victim of brutality at the hands of the police on Tuesday, we all feel the effects of fear and repression. When the police attack one member of our community, they attack us all.

We stand in solidarity with all victims of police violence and repression. We demand that all charges of those arrested on Mayday be dropped, especially those facing possible deportation. The actions of May Day may be finished, however, our movement lives on. Together, we will continue to be out in the streets organizing to dismantle the vast inequality of wealth and power in our country. We will not be divided.

Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC)
May Day Coalition
SpokesCouncil of Occupy Portland
Occupy Portland Livestream - opdxlive.org
Radical Anti-Capitalist Caucus of Occupy Portland (RACC)
Hella503 Affinity Group
ELK - Elk Law Kollective
Oregon Jericho
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
International Socialist Organization
Oregon Progressive Party

The Portland Police Bureau takes any allegations of excessive force very seriously. Officers are required to write reports after any use of force. All use of force actions are then reviewed to determined if they were within Police Bureau policy. If there is a policy violation, officers may face discipline up to and including termination from employment.

The events of May Day included a permitted march and many unpermitted marches. The arrests and vandalism that occurred on May Day involved people who were for the most part, not associated with the permitted march. The Police Bureau wants to thank the organizers of the permitted May Day event who coordinated the route with police. This allows for police to close the roads, ensuring the participants can safely march in the streets while also providing minimal disruptions to commuters.

May Day, as with all other Portland demonstrations, was widely filmed by media and members of the community. Portland Police officers are well aware of the continuous filming and as an organization, the Portland Police Bureau welcomes the filming as a way to further increase transparency. As with any video, however, it must be shown in full context and not edited to remove relevant footage.

Complaints about officer conduct should be directed to the Office of Independent Police Review (IPR) for investigation. Visit www.portlandonline.com/auditor/ipr or call (503) 823-0146 for further information on how to file a complaint.

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