People's Police Report
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Date: May 18, 2017
From: Portland Copwatch
To: Mayor Ted Wheeler, Chief Mike Marshman, the US Department of Justice, Independent Police Review and Citizen Review Committee
Subject: Deep concerns about police response to May Day 2017
We were once again profoundly disturbed by the police response on May Day 2017, the militarism and violence, and the Mayor's praise of how police handled the situation just weeks after recognizing their over-reaction to protests in February. We had four members observing police behavior at this year's May Day event.
We generally support the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild and Oregon Lawyers for Good Government comments. We wanted to send in our own observations, some of which echo theirs.
POLICE SET THE TONE
We witnessed officers confiscating items from protestors while the rally was still going on in the Park Blocks. This was unnecessary, unprecedented, and created tension before the march even began. Especially given that May Day had its own internal security team, it should have been left to the organizers to determine what items they felt were potential weapons.
We noticed two officers quite openly hanging near the Black Bloc as they lawfully convened in one
of the Park Blocks.
One of the officers later engaged in light-hearted conversation with a demonstrator, putting his hand
on the person's shoulder-- which would have been considered assault if the civilian had touched the
As the march began, officers concentrated around the "Black Bloc." For many years we cautioned the PPB against doing so as a form of political profiling. In addition to that concern, it also set people on edge feeling as if they were being contained or under unnecessary extra scrutiny, rather than having officers blocking off traffic to help the permitted march.
Police also came into the march itself, a tactic which had been suspended several years ago because it unnecessarily escalates the situation.
Police crowded the sidewalks unnecessarily, including by the Wells Fargo tower where we counted
at least 13 officers clustered together.
Not long into the march, some protestors who saw the sidewalk as over-crowded
with police linked arms across the sidewalk. Rather than go around or wait until the way was clear,
multiple officers pushed past
these demonstrators with physical violence. The demonstrators were upset but
did not respond. The first officer did say "excuse me," the second said nothing, and the third,
Officer Chadd Stensgaard (#43480) said "get out of the way."
POOR DECISION MAKING
Around this time, we noticed objects flying toward the buildings along the
route, generally striking well over the heads of the people on the sidewalks.
Some of the objects were plastic water bottles and soda cans. Officer
(David?) Hughes stomped angrily on one of the soda cans, spraying the
contents on his fellow officers and two of us. Though he apologized to one of
us about a block later, we wonder whether stomping on a full can of soda is
something that's taught to police in their training.
We did observe a brown-colored bottle with a reddish brown liquid in it that
had been thrown and broken, along with a small rag that was burning. We're
not sure this fits the textbook definition of a "Molotov Cocktail" since the
contents were either paint or chocolate syrup. At this time, rather than
contacting the May Day security team and/or the police liaisons, the officers
who'd been next to the Black Bloc turned around en masse and headed back to
the precinct, as a large swarm of Rapid Response Team/Riot police took their
[Side note: just before the riot police ran in, a motorcycle officer drove down the sidewalk against
traffic, something we've seen on previous May Days.]
Soon thereafter, the police vehicle with the LRAD loudspeaker on top began
announcing that the permit had been revoked. This was perhaps the most
ill-conceived of all the Bureau's decisions, since it underscores the
question of why people would ask for a permit from the government whose
policies they are protesting. They told families and children to leave safely, apparently unconcerned
about anyone else (though narratives show families and children at the front of the march did not
hear the announcements and were subjected to police violence anyway).
It caused confusion, wasn't necessarily heard more than a block into the march, and, as often is the case, commands were given that told people to exit one way ("go to the west") but the police made that route impossible to take.
The police also asked people to be off the streets and the sidewalks, which also seemed like an over-reach.
As they ordered people to move, officers geared up in gas masks, with one officer having to put
down his flash-bang launcher to do so.
Two of our members were on the South side of Morrison St. as the police decided to spread out from edge to edge (including the sidewalks) and start pushing forward. Within 30 seconds, one of our members who wasn't able to move quickly enough for the officers' liking was grabbed by two officers (including Officer Jason Wands #52690) and pushed bodily by a third with his baton (Officer Randy Kuykendoll #55060). She cried out for help and as another Copwatcher videotaped the scene, was ushered off to one side. There was no reason the police needed to push the Copwatcher, as she was clearly holding a clipboard and all the way to the side of the sidewalk. They could easily have moved past. If one of us touched an officer in that way we would be charged with assault on a police officer.
Video of this event can be seen at
We saw a police car apparently deliberately drive straight toward one NLG observer.
We also became aware via the Mercury blog that a NLG observer was detained by the police. Directives and training on Crowd Control should be very clear that unless there is some kind of criminal behavior by an observer or media member, police should not touch, push, spray or harm them.
PLAYING WITH THEIR TOYS
Some in the community have speculated that some of the Black Bloc came down
ready for a fight. We offer no opinion on this matter, but would say the
police were guilty of wanting to fight. They clearly came armed with all
sorts of less lethal weaponry.
One officer fired a weapon blindly into a cloud of colored smoke created by a demonstrator. (We did not capture this on video.)
An officer (as seen in the video of the copwatcher being pushed) shot multiple flash-bangs up into the sky, scattering pieces of overhead trees, causing deafening noise, and not being concerned about where the munitions might land.
READY TO RUMBLE
Officers lined up in their intimidating riot gear, which mostly made them anonymous as name tags
on many officers were not visible.*
At about the same time, officers were video-ing the crowd from their vehicle while a helicopter
hovered overhead (it's not clear whether the PPB borrowed a helicopter or it was the news).
Less than two minutes after officers announced that the street was closed, they rushed forward in
formation like a football team ready to knock down everyone in their path.
At Pioneer Courthouse Square, one officer told a civilian to "shut up and get out of the way"-- we
caught the officer's audio and what we think was his image on video, clearly angry.
Overall, there was no sign that the officers intended to de-escalate the situation. As part of a group that sometimes organizes mass protests that receive permits (Peace and Justice Works) we are outraged that the police did not consult with the May Day organizers before sending in the riot squad and pulling the permit.
Also, Mayor Wheeler spoke out against the use of the transport vehicles with officers hanging off
the sides, but they were seen early on near the Morrison Bridge, then further down 2nd Avenue as
the dispersal orders were being given.
There were also a series of four such vehicles that pulled up next to Pioneer Courthouse Square;
two were empty, but officers hopped on board the fourth truck and took off.
We note here that the first truck by the Square had an official medic on board. We also saw a medic
get out of a vehicle full of Multnomah Sheriff's Deputies, and another standing with police at the
We understood that the Fire Bureau had agreed not to embed their medical personnel with police so that they could prioritize getting aid to people rather than being hampered by officers deciding for them whether it is safe to attend to the injured.**
*-We also saw one bicycle officer with no name tag, who waved at our camera as we captured his
We saw at least two people who were detained by officers but let go. Since they both had their
photos and IDs taken, we are fairly sure our notes here will not do them any harm. One, the man
who apparently brought the Pepsi cans to the protest, was photographed and released on SW 2nd.
The other was detained at Pioneer Square, had a photo of his ID taken, and then we lost sight of
We're not sure if this was a means for officers to consider them for later arrests, just to take information, or if something else was going on.
We demand a seat at the table as the crowd control Directive is finalized and hope that you will include others from the community with direct experience. We and other organizations have made numerous recommendations to improve the Directive and have seen nothing change for the better. You can't both have professional community police officers and militarized, out-of-control goon squads.
Dan Handelman and other members of
**-The Oregonian reported on April 30 that medics would continue embedding with police, only wearing new uniforms. The timing of this reversal was unfortunate.
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Posted May 18, 2017 1:10 PM, footnote on medics added 1:30 PM
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.
Posted May 18, 2017 1:10 PM, footnote on medics added 1:30 PM