ACLU Oregon sues Portland, federal officers in defense of volunteer protest medics

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
July 22, 2020 10:22 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon Wednesday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of people working as volunteer medics during ongoing Portland protests.

The lawsuit states both officers with the Portland Police Bureau and federal officers deployed to the city have targeted medics with tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.  The lawsuit is representing four protest medics. They’re suing the city of Portland, an individual Portland Police Bureau officer and unnamed PPB officers, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service and unnamed federal officers.


“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.”

One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs is Michael Martinez, a graduate student at Oregon Health & Science University. Martinez began serving as a protest medic with a group of others affiliated with OHSU last month, court documents state.


The OHSU volunteer medic group set up a table offering personal protective equipment including masks and gloves as well as medical supplies.

The lawsuit states Martinez was arrested by Portland Police when trying to pack up the medic table while PPB was clearing an area of downtown that had been designated in an “unlawful assembly.”

“I filed this lawsuit because many people in this country, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, will never have their day in court,” Martinez said in a statement. “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.”

Other plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, Christopher Durkee and Savannah Guest, state they were tear-gassed and beaten by federal officers while attempting to give medical aid to demonstrators.

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

The last plaintiff, another volunteer medic, Christopher Wise, said he was wearing clothing prominently displaying red crosses when he was targeted by local police and federal officers with “rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, pepper bullets, riot batons and tear gas.”

This is the second lawsuit the ACLU of Oregon has filed against the federal agencies whose officers have been recently deployed to Portland amid ongoing protests advocating for racial justice and against police brutality. The first, filed last week, states both local police and federal officers are targeting journalists and legal observers.