Michelle Fawcett filed lawsuit after receiving severe chemical burns when police fired flash bang rounds at a crowd last August
A Portland woman is suing the citys government for $250,000, and claiming she was permanently disfigured by ordnance fired by the Portland police bureau (PPB) at a protest a year ago.
The ACLU of Oregon and law firm Tonkon Torp filed the suit in Multnomah county court on behalf of Michelle Fawcett, 53.
Fawcett received severe chemical burns and other injuries on 4 August 2018 after police fired flash bang rounds at a crowd of protesters, and she was struck on the arm by one of the rounds. Flash bangs are intended to be non-lethal and create a loud, explosive and disorientating noise.
Fawcetts experience at the protest was first reported in the Guardian last year.
Fawcetts legal complaint alleges the police intentionally deployed the flash bang round that struck Fawcett and intentionally directed the flash bang round into the crowd.
The complaint says that Fawcett was standing a considerable distance from the police line, had not disobeyed police, and had no contact with any PPB officer on the day of the protest prior to being hit by the flash bang round.
It also says that the city is liable because by firing flash bangs directly at the crowd of protesters, rather than overhead as intended, PPB Officers demonstrated an alarming lack of concern for the safety of Portland citizens.
Fawcett said that her ordeal was ongoing. I still have pain and nerve damage. I have a frozen shoulder because I had to elevate my arm for such a long time. The wound was both a third-degree chemical wound as well as a major impact wound, she said.
Fawcett said, I will be permanently scarred, I am permanently bruised, I have a permanent indentation on my arm, and I will probably continue to have mobility issues.
Fawcett said that the psychological impact was equally serious. I have nightmares, I have fear of any unexpected touch or sound. I have fear of large crowds. I have a certain amount of depression because there is no course forward here.
She said that she is a very private person, and going public with a lawsuit made her fear ridicule and danger from people associated with the rightwing street protests.
I am afraid for my personal safety, and I am afraid I will be cast as a criminal instead being cast as someone who is an innocent victim.
Sarah Armstrong, a spokeswoman at the ACLU of Oregon, said the organization is gravely concerned with how PPB handles protests in our city.
Armstrong said PPBs stance has had a chilling effect on the first amendment here in Portland.
People now wonder, Armstrong said, will protesters be attacked by police, confronted by police in riot gear? Will military grade crowd control weapons be used on innocent bystanders?
On the day she was injured, Fawcett was in downtown Portland to counter-protest a rally organized by Joey Gibson, leader of the rightwing group Patriot Prayer. That rally drew hundreds of rightwing demonstrators from all over the country, though the counter-protest was larger.
While police spent most of the day keeping the two groups separated across a road near the citys waterfront, late in the afternoon they fired riot control agents at the leftwing group, and charged towards them with batons drawn.
PPB initially claimed that their action was a response to missiles thrown from the crowd, but video, witnesses and reporters on the scene threw key aspects of PPBs narrative into doubt.
Fawcett described her action as an attempt to find justice.
When you get shot by a person on the street, theres a course of action. When you get shot by the police, there isnt, she said.
There is no path offered, so I am trying to establish one.