Bike police officer held this protestor down for 12 seconds and up to five of those he used two arms. Zoë Buhrmaster/PSU Vanguard

Protest at PSU administration building lead to lawsuits

Students claim that physical police force was used on non-violent students

Protesters lined up, sat down and linked arms at the entrance to the Richard & Maurine Neuberger Center’s (RMNC) parking garage. Some caught their breath after running from the front of RMNC where the protest had begun with two PSU students chaining themselves to the building’s doors.

 

Protesters organized in front of RMNC on May 23 out of solidarity with students who had chained themselves to the doors of the building and been arrested. The protest on May 23 has since resulted in two lawsuits filed by students against the city and the university for the “use of physical force against nonviolent students,” one notice stated.

 

Two Portland State students—Makayla “Topaz” Arnold and David Mosqueira—are suing the city and the university for the events on May 23. They claim officers did not give verbal warning prior to using force and did not consider alternatives to using physical force.

 

Their attorney, Michael Fuller, sent notices to Mayor Ted Wheeler and PSU President Ann Cudd of the lawsuits. The notices cite pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, humiliation and medical bills endured by Arnold and Mosqueira. Together, the two claims come to a total of $7,000.

 

Police have also filed a probable cause affidavit for protester Sarah Netto, who the police arrested in front of the administration building. The affidavit alleges that Netto was attempting to break through the line of police and was given a warning that she would be arrested should she continue.

 

Video footage captured by independent journalist Alissa Azar shows Netto joining the line of protesters. Netto had both arms linked with protesters in front of the police, and her head was turned, engaged in dialogue with them prior to the arrest. Shortly after, the footage shows a police officer holding onto Netto’s arm and pulling her back into the line of police, at which point she and the group around her made efforts to resist the police who were dragging her backward.

 

In this struggle, according to the affidavit, she kicked Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) Chief Willie Halliburton in the leg, which the affidavit cites as part of attempted assault for which she was charged. Police then handed her over to CPSO Officer Marco Jimenez inside the building.

 

Around this time, protestors noticed that those arrested were being taken out through the parking garage.

 

Once protesters reached the garage, they sat in front of and behind the two police cars to prevent them from leaving. Those who sat behind were quickly arrested, except for one who left the line shortly before CPSO made the arrests, according to an eyewitness statement. 

 

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers in tactical gear arrived onsite and pushed through the crowd to join the line of PPB bike police and CPSO officers between protesters and CPSO cars. 

 

Video footage shows Halliburton standing in the middle of the police line and making the first push into the line of protesters. Jimenez, looking to Halliburton, made the second push, shoving several protesters onto the concrete floor, including one off their bike. 

 

In response, a masked protester wearing a bandana stepped forward and placed their hand on the shoulder of Jimenez’s right arm, which was in the process of shoving another protester down. Jimenez reacted by grabbing the collar of the protester with the bandana and throwing them against the concrete parking garage wall, where the protester narrowly caught themselves with their hands.

 

PPB Chief Bob Day condemned the protesters’ actions as a legitimate political protest, saying that the crowd had become extraordinarily hostile in a statement released the following day.

 

Police may use physical force on another person only after first considering other alternatives and after giving verbal warning that physical force may be used, providing them with a reasonable opportunity to comply, according to Oregon peace officer laws.

 

Video footage of the initial push into the crowd, however, shows Halliburton pushing into the line of protesters without any verbal warning to the crowd while some protesters shouted, “This is a peaceful protest.”

 

In the following minutes, police continued to use physical force upon protesters, deploying mace and pushing protesters.

 

Once they had cleared the entrance of the parking garage, police started grabbing protestors from behind and pulling them to the ground, with many of them falling on top of other protestors.

 

At one point, a bike policeman tripped over the pile of protesters on the ground and another protester came behind him and hit the top of his helmet four times, according to video footage. The bike policeman leapt up and slammed the protester to the ground, choking the protester with his foreform on the pavement for a total of 12 seconds. The bike policeman added a second arm to the protester’s neck for an indeterminate amount of time, a potential maximum of five seconds of holding with both arms.

 

In a video taken after police had pushed protesters out onto the street and the line had disbanded enough for police vehicles to leave, a PSU student with blue hair walked near Jimenez and began to say something to him. The video shows the protester’s arms crossed when Jimenez turned toward the protester and immediately shoved them to the ground.

 

The student protester said that the push resulted in a torn meniscus and ACL—which will require surgery—along with bone bruising, according to MRI results they received two weeks later. They intend to file a report with CPSO once they’ve mentally recuperated, they said.

 

“Personally, it was a horrifically traumatic event,” the student protester said. “And also just horrifying to see the level of violence that was being utilized against nonviolent student protesters and also community members, and fairly unwarranted, but then also, too, like not given any level of warning.”

 

Cudd sent a campus-wide email the following day, acknowledging that those in the protest had experienced physical force and that Halliburton suffered a medical emergency.

 

At one point, footage shows Halliburton clutching his chest while a bystander called out that he believed the CPSO Chief was going to have a heart attack. The bystander had two dogs, which were trained to recognize heart attacks, he said.

 

About seven minutes into the protest following Halliburton’s initial push, Halliburton was guided over to the sidewalk with his hand over his chest, crouching down before laying down on the ground.

 

Day purported that protesters blocked the way for emergency vehicles responding to Halliburton’s medical emergency.

 

“Police officers were assaulted and harassed, and lifesaving medical care was delayed for Chief Halliburton,” Day stated. “It baffles me that these actions are being portrayed as legitimate political protest.”

 

Video footage, however, shows the crowd of protesters largely disbanding once Halliburton was on the ground, while police walked forward and expanded a perimeter of officers around the area with ease. A firefighter truck pulled onto the street and medics walked directly to Halliburton without being impeded.

 

“Students protest peacefully with absolutely zero property destruction,” the student protester said. “And then that’s met with an extreme amount of force, which feels very indicative of the fact that it doesn’t really matter how you protest. It’s just the fact that you’re protesting at all.”