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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Occupy Protester in Infamous Pepper Spray Photo Will Sue Police Bureau

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Word just arrived at this tender hour that Liz Nichols, the young college student whose mouthful of pepper spray was immortalized by an Oregonian photographer during a chaotic anti-bank protest last November 17, will file an excessive force lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau.

According to a release sent out by Nichols' attorney, Ken Kreuscher, the suit will be filed at 10 am Friday after a short press conference. Nichols was sprayed by Sergeant Jeff McDaniel while shouting at another officer who, Kreuscher says, had driven a nightstick into Nichols' neck. Nichols wound up facing charges after she was sprayed.

Kreuscher says the pepper spray was excessive because Nichols wasn't actively threatening anyone, just shouting, when McDaniel blasted her. The use of less-lethal weapons (especially Tasers) on people who aren't actively resisting or posing a threat earned the ire of the feds in their recent excoriation of the bureau. The bureau is looking to tighten its policies now. But, as we reported months ago, that suggestion, coming from several groups over the years is nothing new.

The altercation was among several that erupted after mounted cops showed up with horses to clear the entrance of an occupied Chase Bank branch at SW 6th and Yamhill, outside Pioneer Square. After protesters were forced onto the street and MAX tracks, riot cops showed up in a confusing, contradictory mass to try to get protesters back onto sidewalks.

Oddly enough, the O's photo, by Randy Rasmussen, just won another national award, the paper announced earlier Wednesday. We'll have more on this in the morning. For now, Kreuscher's release is after the jump.

An Occupy Portland Activist and current Portland State University student will file a civil rights lawsuit on Friday, October 5, 2012, accusing two Portland Police Bureau officers of using excessive force during an “Occupy the Banks” demonstration on November 17, 2011. The lawsuit also accuses the City of Portland of adopting an unconstitutional policy allowing the use of pepper spray on peaceful demonstrators as a means of crowd control when the demonstrators present no threat to the safety of others.

On November 17, 2011, Ms. Elizabeth (Liz) Evon Nichols was peacefully demonstrating for economic and social justice near the southwest corner of SW Yamhill and 6th Ave in downtown Portland. As seen on video, while Ms. Nichols stood in a crowd on the sidewalk, Officer Doris Paisley raised a nightstick to Ms. Nichols’ throat, and pushed her backward. The pressure interrupted Ms. Nichols’ breathing and caused her head to bend backward. People behind Ms. Nichols prevented her from falling backward.

As seen on video, after she regained her balance, Ms. Nichols shouted at Officer Paisley that she thought the officer’s conduct was inappropriate. Ms. Nichols did not advance toward Officer Paisley nor did she make any threatening gestures or statements.

As seen on video, while Ms. Nichols was shouting at Officer Paisley, Officer Jeffrey McDaniel sprayed Ms. Nichols directly in the face with a blast of pepper spray. The pepper spray covered Ms. Nichols’ face, filled her eyes, went up her nose, and went into her mouth and throat.

As seen on video, after being pepper sprayed, Ms. Nichols fell to the ground. Officer Paisley dragged Ms. Nichols by her hair through the police line where she was arrested for three misdemeanors offenses. Those charges later were reduced to violations by the Multnomah County Prosecutor’s Office and eventually were dismissed by the prosecutor’s office. In their place, the prosecutor’s office filed new traffic violation charges, asserting that Ms. Nichols violated traffic laws.

Ms. Nichols’ traffic violation trial is currently scheduled to begin on October 8, 2012, in the Multnomah County Courthouse; however, the defense anticipates that the trial will be set-over to determine whether Ms. Nichols has the right to a jury trial and other constitutional protections in light of a recent Oregon Court of Appeals case.

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