A woman tackled by Portland police, after spitting in their direction amid dueling protests in 2019, has sued the city and Detective Erik Kammerer, who she says singled her out for arrest because she displayed contempt for riot cops.
Hannah Ahern sued Kammerer for false arrest and battery in U.S. District Court this afternoon. She seeks a trial to determine damages.
Kammerer, a homicide detective and 24-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau, is currently under investigation for an allegation that in September he struck a Black homeowner, Elijah Warren, on the head when Warren complained about tear gas seeping into his home during a protest. Last year, three people who attended Portland protests told WW that Kammerer—who wears helmet number 67 while working in the riot squad—had physically assaulted them during demonstrations.
Ahern's lawsuit contains a similarity to Warren's complaint: She says Kammerer targeted her because she expressed disgust with how riot police were handling protesters.
"Video evidence shows that Defendant Kammerer knew that he did not have probable cause, and merely wanted to punish Ms. Ahern for showing contempt for the riot police," the lawsuit says.
Kammerer declined to comment. The Portland Police Bureau directed questions to the City Attorney's Office, which could not immediately be reached.
Ahern's arrest occurred at the edges of one of the most high-profile visits to Portland by the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group now closely associated with storming the U.S. Capitol.
On Aug. 17, 2019, the lawsuit says, Ahern was on her way home from her job downtown while the Proud Boys rally was unfolding along the Portland waterfront. A large group of counter-protesters showed up in opposition of the right-wing group.
Ahern took the long route home to check out the protests. She says she was following orders from officers to move across Southwest 3rd Avenue, after watching officers tackle a protester who refused to stop dancing in the crosswalk.
Ahern expressed her disgust at the officer's actions, the lawsuit says, by spitting in the direction of a group of PPB riot officers wearing riot gear, which Kammerer witnessed.
A group of five unnamed bicycle PPB officers aggressively arrested her, tackling her to the ground. "The officers took her to the ground, injuring her and exposing her body to public as her dress had been drawn up," the lawsuit says. "The officers taking her to the floor claimed she was resisting. The only resistance came from her arm no longer being able to twist further behind her back."
Ahern's lawsuit claims Kammerer ordered the other riot cops to make the arrest. The filing includes photographs of Kammerer watching Ahern cross the street.
Ahern's lawsuit accuses Kammerer of fabricating evidence that she had committed a crime. She was charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic. The charge was later dropped.
Juan Chavez, an attorney representing Ahern, says the arrest shows a pattern with Kammerer's actions from more recent events.
"Kammerer clearly despises protesters who dare to challenge PPBs authority and he's willing to make up shit on the record and charge you with things to assert his authority, and it's a clear abuse," Chavez says.
The 27-page civil complaint also contains a larger argument: that Kammerer, who as a homicide detective testifies to grand juries after police officers shoot and kill someone, is not trustworthy.
Chavez says that this lawsuit being filed against Kammerer and the accompanying evidence invalidates any of Kammerer's key witness testimonies in the past and future.
"It shows he has no problem lying," Chavez says. "That's the kind of thing that needs to be turned over to defense counsels, and I think any DA should be wary to use him in a case."
In the lawsuit, Ahern and Chavez also allege that Portland police repeatedly coddled the Proud Boys when they visited Portland, while assaulting their adversaries.
The lawsuit details multiple examples of disparate treatment, many of them previously reported by WW.
"I think the overall picture we've learned from [Joe] Biggs and the Proud Boys showing up is that it was a staging ground for later attack on the Capitol," Chavez says. "The fact is, this city rolled out red carpets out for them time and time again, so of course they would feel they had the authority to attack Congress."