Hours before right-wing paramilitary groups rally in Portland, four Oregonians have filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against three agitators who organized a previous protest.
In the lawsuit, filed today in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the four plaintiffs say Alan Swinney, Corey Wyatt and David Willis fired paintballs at them at close range and sprayed them with bear mace.
The plaintiffs—who include Albert Lee, a former candidate for U.S. Congress; Melissa Lewis, a photojournalist; and two protesters—say they went to observe "flag wave" rallies in downtown Portland on Aug. 15 and 22, only to find Swinney and his allies using weapons indiscriminately on the crowd that confronted them.
Lewis, an independent photojournalist, was filming right-wing protesters forming a shield wall against counterdemonstrators on Aug. 22. She says Swinney walked up to her and sprayed her in the face with bear mace, which flowed into her ear canal.
"The sensation of the bear mace down my ear was so intolerable that I tore off all of my gear," Lewis tells WW. "As soon as I took off my gas mask, bear mace was gushing out of my hair and down my face. My arms were bathed, my bra was soaked. I was loaded into an ambulance and I was just howling. It wasn't even a pain that could be solved by crying."
The lawsuit, filed by the Oregon Justice Resource Center on behalf of the plaintiffs, seeks damages for assault, battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
It accuses Swinney of injuring and menacing multiple people in the streets, as police officers stood by and watched.
"On August 15, 2020, and August 22, 2020, Alan Swinney organized, directed, and engaged in overt violence against the counter-demonstrators who had assembled, including firing rubber bullets, spraying chemical weapons, and pointing a gun at the crowd, pulling back the hammer and placing his finger on the trigger."
This is the second lawsuit filed against Swinney, a Texas-based right-wing agitator associated with the Proud Boys who has repeatedly visited Portland dressed in body armor. Last month, Portlander Meg McClain sued him for $250,000 for shooting her with paintballs.
The other two defendants, Wyatt and Willis, are from Eugene and Lincoln County, Ore., respectively. They could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit arrives one day before the Proud Boys, a national right-wing men's fraternity, arrive in Portland for a rally. That event, which law enforcement expects to draw thousands of people, is billed in part as vengeance for Aaron J. Danielson, a conservative protester killed by a self-proclaimed anti-fascist last month.
Many observers fear Saturday's event is a pretext for the kind of violence and intimidation described in today's lawsuit.
Lewis says she fears the same groups will hurt more people Saturday. She says she was among a crowd of people seriously injured Aug. 22.
"The emergency room was so full because of other Proud Boy-related injuries that [doctors] couldn't see me for an hour," she says. "They came to hurt people. And they did."