A woman hit and injured by a flash-bang grenade fired by police during a protest is suing the city of Portland for battery.
Michelle Fawcett, 53, promotes independent documentary films. In a civil lawsuit filed Monday in Multnomah County, she is seeking $250,000 in damages for her injuries.
The ACLU of Oregon and the firm Tonkon Torp are representing Fawcett pro bono.
It's the latest in a number of lawsuits the ACLU has assisted with or filed against the city over police tactics during protests since the 2016 presidential election.
Fawcett had joined a counter-protest on Aug. 4, 2018, against a permitted march by Patriot Prayer, a far-right group that attracts white supremacists.
Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center had warned that the demonstrations had the potential to become “the next Charlottesville,” and Portland Police was trying to keep dueling groups of protesters separated.
Fawcett said she attended the counter-protest dressed in her normal clothes, a T-shirt and capris, and was there to take a position against white nationalist ideology and violence.
“Nothing happens when we stay home and sit on the couch,” she said.
According to Fawcett, she was in the middle of a crowd of hundreds of people when she was hit without warning by an explosive device.
“I looked down and saw blood had started rising to the surface of my arm, and I was just shocked,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to die. The police kept firing.”
Fawcett’s lawsuit alleges that officers never instructed her to move or warned her they were deploying crowd-control weapons – and that she was too far from the line of police at the demonstration to hear any warnings.
Fawcett said she received treatment after the protest at a Kaiser urgent care clinic and has received follow up care from a plastic surgeon.
Fawcett said the device caused a third-degree chemical burn that damaged her skin and nerves. The injury has left a permanent scar shaped like a large bullet on her forearm and has left her with a stiff shoulder.
“I can’t put on a bra or wash my back or anything like that a year later,” she said.
After protesters including Fawcett were injured, the Portland Police Bureau said it had temporarily stopped its use of flash-bangs.
Portland Police have also said the flash-bangs are supposed to be fired above crowds, not at them, and following the protest, police said they were reviewing the incident to determine what had gone wrong.
Fawcett’s lawsuit alleges that the police officers' actions showed “an alarming lack of concern” for the safety of Portlanders.
“PPB officers’ conduct also revealed either a lack of effective training in the use of these munitions or reckless dismissal of that training,” the suit states.
The city of Portland recently hired an independent group, the National Police Foundation, to review how the Portland Police Bureau handles political protesters and to investigate allegations of bias against left-wing groups.