FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2020
CLDC Files Second Suit to Protect the Public from Police Violence
Eugene, OR — Today, attorneys with the Civil Liberties Defense Center filed their second federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Eugene and its police department for violating the constitutional rights of its residents. Filed in U.S. Federal District Court in Eugene, the complaint alleges that the City of Eugene and members of the Eugene Police Department (EPD) violated the rights of protesters and other community members when they deployed a military-style response and city-wide curfews after an isolated incident of property destruction connected to the protests. Additional plaintiffs may be added to this complaint in the coming weeks. Last week, CLDC filed suit against the City and its officers for similarly violating the rights of a journalist covering the protests.
The constitutional violations alleged in this complaint occurred on May 31, 2020, amidst growing protests for Black lives after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers. In response to local protests, EPD used indiscriminate, malicious, and brutally excessive force against protestors, journalists, and even people on their porches and in their homes. Law enforcement deployed impact (rubber bullet/”foam”) and chemical (teargas and pepper gas) munitions from the turrets of militarized vehicles (Lenco Bearcat), as they marauded the city streets using a series of draconian and unconstitutional curfews to justify the uses of force and arrest of several people, including plaintiffs. Taken together, these actions resulted in numerous violations of many people’s rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs in this case include people who were exercising their constitutional rights to protest, people who were providing legal support to community members, others who were attempting to leave the curfew zones as directed, and residents of a housing cooperative who experienced assaults on their homes. Harms range from physical injury from impact munitions and chemical weapons to unwarranted arrest and physical property destruction. In addition to the City, the suit individually names defendants Eugene City Manager Sarah Medary, who authorized the state of emergency and curfews, and the estimated twenty police officers who participated in the assaults (John Does 1-20) including Samuel Stotts and Bo Rankin. CLDC Staff Attorneys Lauren Regan, Marianne Dugan, and Cooper Brinson are representing the plaintiffs in this pursuit of justice.
“It’s disheartening to read hyped-up media accounts of protester violence when the only real violence I’ve seen in relation to the Black Lives Matter protests has been perpetrated by the very police who created the emergency to begin with,” said plaintiff Kelsie Bowden. “I’m joining this suit not only because I was harmed, but also because I refuse to allow a rogue police state to instill fear in the hearts of those who would hold it accountable.”
“It is deeply troubling that the EPD would rove the streets of our community in military-like armored vehicles, wearing storm-trooper uniforms that mask their identities, aiming rifles and other weaponry at people who pose no threat and are not committing any crime, in response to a national uprising against State violence and the murder of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. They must clearly believe they are above the law and immune from any accountability to the people of this City. We intend to prove that they are very, very wrong.” said CLDC Executive Director and Senior Attorney Lauren Regan.
“With this suit, CLDC seeks to affirm the right of people to exercise their First Amendment rights and to be free from fear of injury and arrest due to the overreach of the Eugene Police Department and its officers. Plaintiffs demand an end to the City’s policy allowing the use of chemical and impact munitions against protestors – and even the general public – essentially whenever it wants,” said CLDC Staff Attorney Marianne Dugan.
“Eugene decisionmakers like Ms. Medary and Chief Skinner have recently made placating statements about police reform and respecting the rights of their residents, but we have yet to see real action to fix the problem of decades of police violence against people of color (and their allies),” said CLDC Executive Director and Senior Attorney Lauren Regan. “However, for CLDC, for our plaintiffs, and for every person of color who calls Eugene home, the City and EPD’s repeated violations of our rights cannot go unaddressed.”
“While this lawsuit alone will not solve the systemic deficiencies of our brutal and broken law enforcement system, it can help ensure that police and decisionmakers like Medary will be held accountable for their role in violating the rights of our clients,” said CLDC Staff Attorney Cooper Brinson. “That’s a start.”
You can view the full complaint HERE.
The Civil Liberties Defense Center supports movements that seek to dismantle the political and economic structures at the root of social inequality and environmental destruction.