Alan Graf's Press Conference Speech
City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau Concedes Defeat
Agrees to Pay $300,000 plus Attorney Fees and Costs to End Law Suit
Press Conference Team of Activists and National Lawyers Guild Attorneys Bring City of Portland to its Knees.
Who's Streets? Our Streets!!!
So says the Portland Progressive Community as it takes to the streets time and time again to voice its vigorous dissent and dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of the Administration of George W. Bush--an administration that continues to torture prisoners, spit on the Bill of Rights, destroy the environment, lie to the American public, engage in an illegitimate war and exhibit a criminal disregard for the rule of law.
Despite how the police tried to portray the August 22, 2002 and March 2003 demonstrations as protestor riots, the truth has finally come out. It was the police acting in a criminal manner similar to the President they were attempting to protect. The actions of the Portland Police showed a blatant and criminal disregard for basic humanitarian principles and human rights in this town.
We won, the police state lost. Chalk a big one up for Portland's activist community.
This is the first time that we have seen any real police accountability in this town
Round two is next and we are ready.
While Chief of Police Foxworth blithely states that he has the utmost confidence in Officer Kruger and his actions—once again the videos and pictures speak otherwise. Here is a picture of a man who Foxworth promoted to Lieutenant after he used chemical weapons indiscriminately against protestors and against Fox News camerawoman Beth English.
Tell me chief, if Kruger dressed up in white robes, burned crosses and claimed to be a civil war buff, would you assert that it was engaged in an innocent pastime and promote him? How could you allow a so called "student of history" trusted with a badge and a gun proudly strut around in a Nazi uniform while at the same time applying chemical weapons to indiscriminately torture peaceful protestors. I am appalled.
You should know that through the two years of this law suit, the city resisted producing documents at every turn about every detail regarding the police. The city attorneys vigorously fought to keep our police as the secret police. And as we got into the details of the PPB we found out why.
The officer that pepper sprayed babies is still on the streets. No admonishment. The officer that hammered Bill Ellis's head to the ground, hit him over the head with pepper spray is still on the streets. No admonishment. The officer that twisted a woman's head who was peacefully protesting, cackled with glee while spraying a woman a foot smaller than him, pepper sprayed a Fox news camera woman and dresses up in Nazi drag-- was promoted to Lieutenant. He was rewarded for being a criminal. The officer that has a financial interest in Armor Holdings, the company that manufactures pepper spray cannisters is still on the streets encouraging their use by the PPB and was promoted like Kruger.
This is one dysfunctional institution. In the Portland Police Bureau, the crud rises to the top..
During discovery, Commander Dave Benson swore to the court under oath that the specifications for the use of pepper spray were top secret because the police didn't want the protestors to find out about the chemical weapons used against them. Then we did a search on the internet and bought for ourselves the same cannister that the police use.
During the course of this suit, we hired Dr. Woodhall Stopford of Duke University who is the top chemical weapons advisor to the U.S. Army. He said, and the city now knows this, that it is dangerous to public health to use pepper spray for crowd control. Why? Because pepper spray can cause fatalities especially amongst children, people with asthma, and elderly. If you use pepper spray to disperse a crowd, you cannot know the health condition of individual members of the crowd. It is irresponsible, and criminally reckless to continue to use chemical weapons against the people of Portland. Foxworth and the entire city council is now on notice that chemical weapons can cause fatalities. The city produced no expert who stated anything to the contrary. If there is a fatality, the question is- will we see Foxworth and the city council charged with manslaughter?
We spent almost five months negotiating with the city attorneys with the help of Senior Judge Ed Leavy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Leavy was a wonderful negotiator and really helped us reach a good agreement. We had an twelve page agreement on the table that would have restricted the police in how they treated peaceful protestors. The city had four attorneys there and Commander Sizer. They agreed to the basic provisions of the settlement. But Foxworth never showed up. And at the last minute, he tubed the agreement and instead recommended that city buy us off with 300K and pay for our attorney fees..
One of our Plaintiffs refused to take the money because he believed that the settlement agreement that was on the table was the only way to change the police force. That was Lloyd Marbet. I don't blame Lloyd for taking that position but I disagree with him. I think we have won the first big battle in a long protracted war.
To this day, there have been no substantial changes in police behavior. However, out of this litigation grew the NW Constitutional Rights Center-it is the litigation team of lawyers, paralegals and activists who joined together with the vow that if you disrespect the Bill of Rights, if you treat activists and protestors with disrespect:
We will be back at you, back in your face, back at you-- suing you, deposing you, investigating you, making your life miserable and costing the city of Portland- money, again and again and again. We will be back at you with video cameras in your face, particularly in North Portland where the Center plans to work with a group of African-American youth patrolling their streets.
Whose streets? Their streets!! To make sure that the police don't murder any more unarmed African-Americans on the street. This time there will be video cameras and lawyers funded by this law suit to continue the vigilance.
Indeed, vigilance is our answer to both local and national oppression. Vigilance and truth saying is our response to the use of chemical weapons on peaceful American patriots. Why do we call it the First Amendment? Why is the First Amendment so vital to our society and its ability to keep on? Because without the protections it holds for the voices of the minority, our fragile democracy will die an untimely death.
I am hopeful that our new Mayor Tom Potter and the newly elected council is ready to go forward with real substantial change. I appreciate Tom's remarks that he wants to demilitarize our local police. I support those changes. I look forward to seeing the police force change from thugs in uniform to a force of peace officers that we all can be proud of, a force where no law abiding citizen is afraid when encountering an officer.. I recognize that there are good police officers out there and they need to be recognized and promoted for doing a good job.
I feel proud to be part of this team of activists and National Lawyers Guild attorneys who through their concerted efforts achieved such a historical victory.
Make no mistake about it. We are at the crossroads of history
there is no turning back.
National Lawyers Guild--NW Constitutional Rights Center
1020 SW Taylor St. Ste. 230
Portland, Oregon 97205
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