Portland Protesters Who Were Beaten, Snatched Into Unmarked Rental Vans Sue Trump, Department of Homeland Security

“I still haven’t fully come to terms with what it means that I was kidnapped by my government.”

Protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in July. (Wesley Lapointe)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon will file a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday on behalf of Portland protesters who say they were beaten by federal agents or snatched into unmarked rental vans. The plaintiffs are suing President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Plaintiffs include Mark Pettibone, who DHS officials swept into an unmarked rental van in July; Christopher David, the U.S. Navy veteran who federal agents beat with a baton; Portland writer and activist Mac Smiff, who federal agents shot in the head with an impact munition, "knocking him to the ground and temporarily blinding him"; and five other protesters who say federal agents assaulted them. Two organizations, the Black Millennial Movement and Rose City Justice, also signed on as plaintiffs.

Veteran Chris David, who federal agents beat with a baton in July, holds up a photo of himself while he was in the U.S. Navy.

The plaintiffs say federal agents violated their civil rights. They are seeking damages for the injuries they sustained while attending protests.

"I still haven't fully come to terms with what it means that I was kidnapped by my government," says Pettibone. "People need to know what happened to me, and the government needs to be held accountable so that what happened to me doesn't happen to someone else."

Another plaintiff, Andre Miller, says federal agents shot him in the head with a tear gas canister on July 22.

"The protests in Portland gave me a way to voice my concerns as a Black Oregonian and were a place where my family found community," Miller says. "The federal agents that came to Portland called us 'thugs' and attacked protesters night after night. But they won't stop us from working to make our city and state better for Black people."

Jeremy Sacks, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, says it is important to hold the federal government accountable for its actions.

"Our clients were protesting in support of Black Lives Matter, but they were met by indiscriminate violence from federal police forces intent on squelching their message and their constitutional rights," says Sacks, a partner at the law firm Stoel Rives. "We will hold the federal government and the individual agents accountable for their actions."

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