﻿August 23, 2002
Mayor Vera Katz
Dear Mayor Katz:
I write to you today as the Chair of the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and as a citizen of this city.
Yesterday I witnessed actions by the Portland Police against the citizens of this city that rose to the level of what I would term "atrocities against humanity." Many people, including women, children and gentle folks were seriously injured by the aggressive and irresponsible actions of the Portland Police. I will explain further.
On August 22, 2002, around 5 P.M., near the intersection of SW Taylor and SW Fifth, the Portland Police set up a road block in the middle of the block for the purpose of preventing any pedestrian traffic other than invited guests from entering the area around the Portland Hilton. The crowd behind the barricades was loud and vocal, but at no time did I observe anyone in the crowd threaten the police or take any action against the police department that could be perceived as threatening, provocative or dangerous.
I have videos to support this assertion, as do most of the regular media that were there. See, in particular, Channel 12's video of this incident.
The police at one point donned tear gas masks and then announced that they had declared a state of emergency and that everyone had to move. Their
announcement was barely audible and was only heard by a few of us at the front of the barricades. About twenty seconds after their announcement the police proceeded to move around the barricades to the other side where the protestors were stationed and started to push and beat people with their night sticks while spraying pepper spray in the faces of the crowd. Although the police ordered the crowd to move back, the people at the front of the crowd could not move without knocking over people behind them and trampling them. The pepper spray was sprayed indiscriminately at all the people who were in the area.
It was clear to me that the police could see that there were young children in strollers within the crowd, yet the police ignored that fact and continued to spray pepper spray indiscriminately so that the spray hit the children and their mothers. Members of the press were also indiscriminately sprayed.
I personally was sprayed by the police and had a hard time breathing. I also watched as people were carried out of the area including Lloyd Marbet, a man of peace, who was unable to see and who was suffering noticeably.
Besides pepper spray, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the protestors reminiscent of the police department's widely criticized actions around a previous May Day.
Again, the crowd at this intersection was loud, noisy, exercising their First Amendment freedoms---but never threatening. This incident and action by the police was totally unprovoked and totally unnecessary. In fact, the cop actions only resulted in revving up the crowd and blocking the bus mall of SW 5th Avenue.
I have to tell you that this "gestapo like conduct" is not the kind of conduct we in Portland want to see from our police department. During this incident, the police were obviously acting on orders which I must assume were issued by Chief Kroeker.
Whoever issued the orders yesterday is clearly out of touch with Portland, the fundamental principles of democracy, and their own humanity.
I observed many officers act individually with impunity and complete disregard for the health and safety of the citizens of Portland. In fact, it appeared to me that many officers wanted to inflict harm on the protestors. I can only assume that this conduct is a direct result of a failed system for police accountability here in Portland. The police have learned that they will not be held accountable for aggressive and harmful actions against the citizens of Portland. It is also interesting that many of the officers involved in
these actions did not wear name tags or I.D. numbers.
Mayor Katz. We assume and hope you are still in charge of the police
department. We ask now that you make some tough decisions.
We demand that you fire Chief Mark Kroeker immediately as he did not show the type of responsibility and humanity that we Portlanders expect from our Police Chief. He doesn't even want to be in this city. Let us grant him his wish and send him packing and hire someone who understands that the police are civil servants who work for the citizens of Portland, not against the populace.
We demand that you establish a real system of police accountability in place by utilizing the recommendations of your own Mayor's Task Force and install a system that reflects the Majority Report and a real citizen based system of accountability instead of the failed system that is now in place.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this demand to your office. We
sincerely hope you respond as soon as possible and take our demands seriously.
Chair Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
cc: The Press