ACLU sues federal agencies, Portland over abuses against protest medics

July 23 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit accusing local and federal law enforcement of targeting and attacking volunteer street medics during protests in Portland, Ore.

The civil rights lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court on behalf of four street medics, argues the alleged attacks violated the plaintiffs' First and Fourth Amendment rights.


"In well-document incidents, police and federal agents brutally attacked volunteer medics with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, batons and flash-bangs," the ACLU said in a press release.

The Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and the City of Portland, as well as several named and unnamed law enforcement officers, were listed as defendants.

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"Volunteer medics should be celebrated, not attacked or arrested," Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement. "Our clients are volunteering day and night to provide aid to the injured and to create a safer environment for protesters and bystanders. These attacks are unconscionable as well as unconstitutional. This lawlessness must end."


Portland has been submerged in protests against police brutality and racial inequality since the May 25 police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Federal law enforcement agents have been sent to Portland under a late June executive order President Donald Trump signed to protect monuments and statues, which protesters nationwide had targeted for celebrating slaveholders or Confederate soldiers.

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The lawsuit states Michael Martinez, a graduate student at Oregon Health & Science University, was arrested while packing up a medic tent on the night of June 13, saying in a statement that he was filing the lawsuit "because many people in this country, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, will never have their day in court."

"I feel it's all the more important to use whatever resources and power I have to confront this abhorrent system, which allows people in America, primarily Black people, to be beaten and killed by police without consequence," Martinez said in a statement.

Savannah Guest, another plaintiff, accused law enforcement in the complaint of assaulting her while she was attempting to provide aid to an injured bystander who appeared to be suffering from the effects of tear gas exposure.


"It was terrifying," she said in a statement. "Every human being deserves help, but the federal agents showed no humanity or concern."

It is the second lawsuit the ACLU has filed against the City of Portland and the Trump administration over alleged abuses that have occurred during the protests. The lawyers group was awarded a court order prohibiting local law enforcement from attacking journalists and legal observers in the previous lawsuit filed on Friday.

"The Trump administration and Portland Police Bureau wax poetic about their concerns about lawlessness -- but they are responsible for it," said Shane Grannum, an attorney at Perkins Coie. "They have violated the constitutional rights of our clients to protest and lend medical services, supplies and treatment to protesters."

The lawsuit was filed as Trump announced his administration will deploy federal law enforcement officers to Chicago and Albuquerque to combat escalating violence in those cities.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned the president's actions and said they do not need federal troops.

"We don't need unnamed secretive federal agents roaming around the streets of Chicago taking off our residents without cause and violating their basic constitutional rights," she said Wednesday in a press conference.


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