Portland Protester Files Tort Claim After Being Hit By A Flash-Bang Grenade Fired By Police At Aug. 4 Protest

The claim sets up a future lawsuit, which will add to a growing number of complaints that allege Portland police mishandle protests.

Police advance on antifascist protesters on Aug. 4. (Justin Katigbak)

A protester who went to the hospital after being hit directly with a flash-bang grenade shot into a crowd by police on Aug. 4 filed notice today of her intent to sue the City of Portland.

Michelle Fawcett suffered third-degree chemical burns from the impact of an explosive device that is meant to be detonated at least 20 feet in the air. Portland police have since suspended use of the explosives pending an internal review.

"At approximately 1:45 pm, Ms. Fawcett was standing peacefully chatting with a friend, surrounded by other peaceful demonstrators, on SW Columbia St. and First Ave," the tort claim says. "Without announcement or warning, PPB members started shooting into the crowd, with what we understand now to be flash bang devices."

A tort claim must be filed before a civil suit can be brought against the city.

Fawcett says she was contacted by the Independent Police Review, but PPB has not tried to get in touch with her about her injuries.

"I hope it's the first step in a process of my assault being acknowledged and to receiving justice," Fawcett says. "There does not appear to be any other way to get justice and I'm hoping this is the first step."

The claim says Portland police engaged in an "unprovoked attack" on Fawcett.

Portland police kept far-right Patriot Prayer and Proud Boy supporters separated from counterprotesters at an hours-long rally on Aug. 4. Throughout the day, police announced over the loud speakers that the counterprotest had been ordered to move and anyone who did not vacate the area might be subject to riot control agents.

Just before 2 p.m., police began firing stun grenades and pepper balls into a crowd of antifascist counterprotesters. The police faced intense scrutiny in the days after the protest.

Observers voiced concerns that police had fired explosives and chemical weapons at a peaceful crowd. Police chief Danielle Outlaw said officers had seen protesters throwing objects just before deploying the first flash bang, but published video footage of the moments leading up to the clash do not support her claim.

"The City does not comment on pending or potential litigation," says PPB spokesman Sgt. Christopher Burley. "However, the protests are under review by IPR and through the Police Bureau's after action review process."

The city has previously been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon on behalf of several protesters who say police used excessive force at past protests. Four protesters filed a suit against the police last November for kettling them at a June 4, 2017 protest. In a review of police tactics at the June 4 event, the city's Independent Police Review recommended that PPB reform its policies on mass detentions, among several other suggested changes.

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