Local activist groups decry PPB’s ‘kettling’ tactic during Friday’s protest


An entire block of people were detained during a protest Friday night after some members of the group tagged buildings and smashed windows. PPB announced that they are not allowed to leave-calling it a “temporary detention”. (KOIN/Jennifer Dowling)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Local activists are once again calling into question Portland Police Bureau’s tactics following the detainment of dozens of protesters Friday night.

Members of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, CAIR-Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon are calling for an investigation into Portland Police Bureau’s use of a “kettling” tactic, where they surrounded a group of at least 100 people on a block in downtown Portland. PPB used this tactic after some members of the group smashed windows and tagged buildings.

Those who left were identified and photographed as part of an investigation, police said. Others locked arms and refused; officers then escorted them away and arrested them.

“And today Portland wakes up again to an unaccountable Portland Police Bureau who last night detained an entire city block of people for protesting on their own streets in their own city — and then, without lawful basis, required individuals to take off their COVID-19 protective face masks, be photographed, and to show identification before being permitted to leave,” the activist groups said in a joint statement.

In the statement, the groups described kettling as an “aggressive and indiscriminate police tactic.”

The groups are requesting U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate PPB’s tactics. They also want Oregon state legislators and Multnomah County officials to support legislative reforms for policing forwarded by the BIPOC Caucus of the Oregon Legislature.

“Law enforcement traumatization of our community must be stopped,” the groups stated.

PPB isn’t alone in using “kettling’ as a law enforcement tactic. Over the summer, police in jurisdictions across the United States used kettling to trap protesters into contained spaces. The New York City Police Department would often use the tactic to prevent protesters from leaving the streets before curfew. They would then swing batons at protesters after curfew, seemingly without provocation, according to teporting from the New York Times.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center and ACLU if Oregon are both already representing clients in federal lawsuits against PPB’s kettling tactic against anti-Trump protesters in 2017.

“In neither case has the court approved of or found constitutional this abusive tactic,” the statement read. “While the courts determined qualified immunity shielded officers from accountability for their actions in 2017, the court did not greenlight the tactic for use.”

The groups also claim that collecting photographs of protesters invades their “constitutional right to privacy,” adding that it underscores an aim to chill free speech.

“It is clearly understood by PPB that the elected district attorney will not prosecute individuals arrested and charged for an alleged offense that is not supported by the evidence, nor will the district attorney prosecute where PPB attempted to curtail First Amendment rights,” the statement read. “It is also clearly understood by PPB that the personal identifiable information collected by them is often quickly made public and then is used by far-right groups and personalities to doxx, harass, and intimidate protesters.”

The groups also claim that the kettling tactic has historically been used exclusively against progressive and left-leaning protesters.

“What is PPB’s response when our community demands safety and justice? They repeatedly engage in violent and unconstitutional tactics that morally compel the community to respond — through protest, mutual aid, legal action, and legislation,” the statement read. “It is clear that our public funds and resources must be reallocated away from failed law enforcement practices and spent on the community and programs that actually keep the public safe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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