PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — A local medical assistant suffered multiple injuries, including a broken arm, after she was slammed to the ground by Portland cops dispersing a protest last year, according to a lawsuit.
Erin Wenzel says she was acting as a street medic and had multiple red cross insignia on her clothing when officers charged forward and struck her several times as she attempted to comply with their orders to move back.
“It didn’t seem to matter who you were or why you were down there, they were just brutalizing people left and right,” Wenzel said in an interview. “They were acting like a street gang.”
The 34-year-old said the Friday, Aug. 14 rally was only her second time attending a demonstration — though the chaotic scene near the Portland Police Association union headquarters was the city’s 79th night of consecutive protests.
She thinks the incident happened somewhere in the vicinity of Killingsworth Street near North Interstate Avenue. In a rapid, bull-rush style advance, one officer hit Wenzel with a baton as she briskly walked away, according to the suit, causing her face to strike the pavement and injuring her leg.
After she picked herself up, an officer pushed her into two other cops, who sent Wenzel pinballing in another direction, per the suit. She was not detained or arrested during the incident, court records show.
“I’ve never seen violence like that toward tax-paying citizens from the people who are supposed to be protecting you,” said Wenzel, who works in the cancer ward of a local hospital.
Wenzel learned only later that her husband, a protest drummer and paralegal named Philip, had been arrested that night on charges that were later dropped. The pair faced harassment and Wenzel was laid off after his mug shot was posted online, Willamette Week reported.
Once she arrived at a hospital, Wenzel was treated for a concussion, had the wound on her leg dressed, and continues to receive physical therapy for an “extremely painful” avulsion fracture that broke off part of the bone in her left arm, she said.
She seeks $500,000 in damages from the city of Portland in a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court late last year.
Her attorney, John Burgess, says the case indicates the level of animosity Portland cops feel toward those they disagree with politically. “When people are walking away and complying with your orders, any use of force is unbelievable,” he said.
The Portland Police Bureau and City Attorney Robert Taylor declined to comment on the matter.