Two Black Lives Matter demonstrators were struck by a police motorcycle on Oct. 2 outside of the Penumbra Kelley building in Northeast Portland.
The incident occured after demonstrators confronted an officer who had pulled over two vehicles leaving the protest. After an argument ensued between demonstrators and the officer, the two apprehended vehicles fled. The officer mounted his motorcycle, and demonstrators blocked his path. He accelerated, striking two people.
“He just came towards me faster and faster,” said Tealeanna “Teal” Lindseth, an activist with the group Black Unity PDX. “I kept thinking, ‘he’s going to stop, he’s not going to keep going.’”
The officer drove directly into Lindseth, whose feet were planted on either side of the motorcycle’s front wheel as she tried not to fall.
“That’s when I decided to grab onto the motorcycle and hold on for dear life…I thought, ‘just keep holding on, cause if I let go, it’s going to get worse.’”
The officer turned the bike to the right and accelerated in an attempt to shake Lindseth off. She fell to the ground, hitting her head and arm on the asphalt as the officer sped away.
A group of protesters surrounded Lindseth, including Xavier “Princess” Warner, another activist with Black Unity PDX, who helped support Lindseth’s head as they waited for mutual-aid medics. Upon arrival, medics began rendering aid. Moments later, a squad of PPB’s Rapid Response Team arrived with police medics on foot, pushing their way to Lindseth, shouting, “Who needs a medic?”
“We were not having it,” Warner said. “I helped Teal up because she wanted to scream at the cops.”
Officers then began pushing and striking the crowd with batons, including Lindseth, who was knocked to the ground. A friend helped her up again, and then they were both sprayed with mace by officers.
Lindseth got into a friend’s car and was taken to a hospital. “[But] there were cops all over, so we left,” she said. They returned to the protest area to check in on friends, and were arrested later that night.
Aliza Kaplan, a criminal defense lawyer and Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, said of the incident with the motorcycle: “[The officer] likely could have gotten out of the situation by getting off of the bike and walking it out of there.” She continued, “It really is the police’s job to do everything in their power to de-escalate the situation. It was uncomfortable, but his life certainly wasn’t in danger. Absolutely there should be an investigation. Anytime an officer reacts violently to a community member there should be an investigation.”
The experience only strengthened Lindseth’s resolve. “I already get so much hate and I already get hurt because of the color of my skin, so why would I stop now just because I got hit by a motorcycle?” she said.
The demonstration that night marked the 117th night of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland.
Earlier in the evening, demonstrators gathered in Laurelhurst Park in NE Portland and were preparing a five block march up NE Burnside street to the Penumbra Kelly building, located at NE 47th and Burnside, which operates as an outpost for the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff and other city offices.
As the crowd arrived at the Penumbra Kelly building, they gathered around the southwest entrance to the driveway. Several cars positioned themselves across NE Burnside street to prevent the increasingly common occurrence of vehicles driving into the crowd.
Protesters held up silver-wrapped cardboard panels to reflect flood lights shining from police cruisers in the parking lot. A small PA and microphone were set up in the middle of the crowd and people took turns speaking. Between speakers, chants rose from the crowd and protest figurehead Demetria Hester weaved throughout, singing her signature song to the police: “your momma hates you, yes she do.”
Mac Smiff, editor-in-chief of We Out Here Magazine and a fixture at Portland protests, took to the mic and spoke about criminalizing poverty, asking, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a Black man getting traffic tickets and keep your license in this city?”
After a brief interruption from the PPB Long Range Acoustic Device—unaffectionately named DJ LRAD by protest regulars—telling demonstrators to “stay off of the Penumbra Kelly building property and landscaping,” Smiff went on to discuss protesting, saying, “we win by staying together and staying consistent. And we demand what we need, we don’t ask for it. We don’t talk about peaceful protest [when] we’re fighting against violence.”
Lindseth and Warner led the crowd in a special chant: “Bow! Bow! Bow for Breonna!”
Lindseth explained the chant: “A few members of our group flew out to Kentucky and spent three weeks with Breonna Taylor’s family. ‘Bow for Breonna’ is one of the chants that her family has been doing out there.”
Another demonstrator shouted, “we got her on FaceTime. Breonna Taylor’s aunt is on FaceTime.” People cheered and those nearest greeted the smartphone. The phone was held up to a megaphone and a crackly voice boomed, “say her name.” The crowd returned, “Breonna Taylor” as they began marching around the block to a dark street behind the north side of the Penumbra Kelly building.
In the middle of NE Couch street, a demonstrator with a bullhorn called for the crowd to stop, pull out their phones, turn on their flashlights, and have a moment of silence for Breonna; her aunt watched on through the phone.