A Seattle man who came to Portland to protest Saturday night and ended up in a hospital emergency room after he said he was assaulted by federal agents is suing President Donald Trump and the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The complaint, filed in the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse that’s been the backdrop of nightly demonstrations in downtown Portland, alleges federal law enforcement at Trump’s direction have used excessive force and violated Seattle resident Jeff Paul’s freedom of speech and assembly.
The suit was filed Tuesday, the same day acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf held a news conference, rebuking Portland officials for failing to curb the nightly “lawlessness” in and around the downtown federal courthouse and defending federal officers’ actions.
On Saturday night, after peaceful marchers demonstrated against police brutality and systemic racism, federal officers physically charged at protesters, including Paul, to remove them from the area outside the Justice Center, and used chemical agents, batons and shields, the suit says.
It alleges Wolf conspired with Trump and federal law enforcement officers to violate Paul’s civil rights.
On Facebook, Paul wrote that he was injured when he stepped between a federal officer who was “shoving and hitting a middle-aged lady with a baton.” He said the woman was holding up peace signs and had not threatened the officers.
“I stepped between them in an attempt to help her, though I was careful not to push or grab the officer. In spite of this, he still chose to hit me repeatedly in the arm and chest with a baton, before swinging at my head and cracking me in the eye,” Paul wrote. He said he spent a night in the hospital and won’t suffer any lasting damage to his vision.
“This is not ok. I’m not the only person who has been injured, and I won’t be the last,‘‘ Paul wrote. “Our government is choosing to harm it’s (sic) citizens to protect buildings and statues. We must stand against this injustice. The government is meant to serve the people, not oppress them.”
Attorney Michael Fuller, who filed the suit, asks a judge to order the federal defendants to cease their alleged unlawful actions and compensate Paul for his injuries.
Paul is a special education paraprofessional for Seattle Public Schools and a youth program leader for Seattle Parks and Recreation, the suit says.
“Mr. Paul believes it is fundamentally important for citizens to protest the treatment of Black lives — racist treatment that has been systemic and generational,” Fuller wrote. “Mr. Paul decided to come to Portland to protest with the thousands of other peaceful people who have flooded the streets. Mr. Paul traveled to Portland to have his voice heard, and to engage in peaceful protest with the rest of the people in Portland.”