Portland Police Accused of Civil Rights Abuse After 'Kettling' Armed Protesters

A coalition of civil rights groups are calling for an investigation into Portland Police after a large number of protesters were detained and arrested.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center, CAIR-Oregon, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon have accused officers of civil rights abuse after they rounded up around 100 protesters in a controversial crowd control tactic known as "kettling" on Friday, March 12.

Police formed a barricade around the protesters at about 9:15 p.m. after some began breaking windows on the block.

After kettling in the crowd, which also included journalists covering the protest, on Northwest Marshall Street between Northwest 13th Avenue and Northwest 14th Avenue, officers told protesters that they were "not free to leave" and they should comply with officers' lawful orders or face arrest.

Police then recorded their names and photographed their faces, which they say will be used as evidence in the investigation. Legal observers, members of the press, and anyone who was medically fragile or required medical attention were told they could leave the perimeter.

Police said those who remained refused to comply and locked arms together "in an effort to interfere with the investigation." Others also threw rocks and beer cans at officers, with two arrested suspects found carrying firearms, wearing body armor and helmets.

After clearing the crowd and making more than a dozen arrests, police recovered a number of weapons and items left by people inside the perimeter, including a crowbar, hammers, bear spray, a slingshot, and knives.

The three civil rights groups are now calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the "unaccountable" Portland Police Bureau over their conduct at the protest, describing the kettling of protesters as an "aggressive and indiscriminate" tactic.

"Both the Oregon Justice Resource Center and ACLU of Oregon are currently representing clients in federal lawsuits against PPB's use of the kettling tactic against anti-Trump protesters in 2017. In neither case has the court approved of or found constitutional this abusive tactic," a joint statement said.

"That PPB officers also continue to violate Oregon law and invade the constitutional right to privacy—by collecting photographs and identification of those protesting the police—underscores that PPB aims to intimidate and chill the rights of our community members and local and independent press.

"It is also clearly understood by PPB that the personal identifiable information collected by them is often quickly made public and then is used by far-right groups and personalities to doxx, harass, and intimidate protestors.

"Historically, this tactic by PPB has been used exclusively against progressive and left-leaning protestors, consistent with their bias as reflected in their lax enforcement towards violent and hateful far-right groups and militias."

The protest on Friday was the second night of unrest in Oregon city following a respite of several weeks. In the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in May 2020, Portland saw continuous nights of protests in the city for more than 100 days, many of which were declared a riot by police.

It is unclear what precisely the latest protests were focusing on, with some stating they were calling for justice amid the criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering Floyd, Derek Chauvin.

Saturday was also the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky during a botched raid.

Portland Police have been contacted for comment.

Portland City Police confront protesters in Portland, Oregon on November 4, 2020, during a demonstration called by the "Black Lives Matter" movement, a day after the US Presidential Election. Civil rights groups are calling for an investigation into Portland police's kettling tactic used during a protest. KATHRYN ELSESSER/AFP v/Getty Images