Ore. man who filmed police files federal lawsuit for arrest
Man contends he was unjustly arrested while videotaping officers during a protest
By Maxine Bernstein
PORTLAND, Ore. — A man who films the police has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Portland and Portland police, contending he was unjustly arrested while videotaping officers during a protest last fall over the Ferguson police shooting.
Robert Lee West, described as the chief videographer for www.filmthepolice911.com, argues that Portland police violated his First Amendment rights protecting the freedom of press and freedom of assembly, engaged in assault through the use of a flash bang grenade thrown in his direction, falsely arrested him for disorderly conduct and deprived him of water upon arrest.
"Arresting journalists has a chilling effect on journalists' coverage of the police and would deter an ordinary journalist from covering police activity,'' his attorney Greg Lockwood wrote in his lawsuit filed this month.
The demonstration occurred Nov. 29 and 30 in protest of a grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson stemming from the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri.
West was filming the protest with a focus on police actions, and while doing so, officers threw a "flash bang'' grenade to disperse the crowd near Southwest Fifth Avenue and Morrison Street that exploded "within inches'' of West, the suit says.
Later that night, West filmed protesters performing a "die-in,'' where people were lying in the street as Southwest Second Avenue and Main Street. Police seeking to wind down the protest performed what's called a "kettle maneuver,'' blocking the protesters from all sides of the intersection.
West was among about 10 people who were detained at that intersection, accused of disorderly conduct.
According to the suit, he said he informed officers of pre-existing health problems and requested water as he was feeling light-headed and had a headache. While taken to East Precinct, he said he suffered dizziness and an elevated pulse and blood pressure.
After about two hours in custody, West was given a citation, transported from the precinct by ambulance and received medical care at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. He was diagnosed with dizziness, dehydration and hypertension, the suit says.
West wants the city to cover his $4,823 in medical bills and $5,178 in non-economic damages for his pain and emotional suffering, according to the suit.
Multnomah County prosecutors ended up dismissing the disorderly conduct allegation against West in late December.
Immediately following the protest, marchers complained police gave confusing commands and filed complaints with the city's Independent Police Review Division, the intake center for complaints against city officers.
The day after the protest, Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said they had used two flash-bang grenades "to get the crowd moving'' and to allow officers to withdraw.
As for the kettle maneuver at the end of the demonstration, Simpson said last fall, "Media being contained within the crowd was an unfortunate byproduct of the need to gain containment before making arrests.''
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