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Oregon Protesters Awarded $845,000 in Excessive Force Actions

The City of Portland, Oregon has paid $300,000 in damages and
$545,000 in attorney's fees to twelve protesters who brought excessive
force actions against the Portland Police Bureau.

On August 22, 2002, President Bush visited Portland. As a
Republican fundraiser was getting underway, police clashed with
protesters. Then, five months later, on March 20 and 25, 2003,
demonstrators flooded the streets of downtown Portland to protest the Iraq
war. Police again responded with force.

Twelve protesters filed suit in federal court alleging that police
used excessive force on all three occasions. The plaintiffs claimed
that police overzealously pepper-sprayed demonstrators, struck them,
slammed them to the ground and fired rubber sting balls at close range."
Plaintiff Don Joughin claimed police pepper-sprayed him after refusing to
let him and his children leave the area of the demonstration. Pepper
spray got into the eyes of [his] 10-month old son."

It's not the way it's supposed to be in this country," said

Alan Graf, the lead plaintiffs' attorney, was particularly
critical of the 2002 protest outside the Bush fundraiser. 'What we saw
that day was a police riot," he said.

When confronted with videotapes made by demonstrators, observers
and police, the city agreed to pay $300,000 in damages to settle the case
rather than risk a significantly larger verdict at trial.

The plaintiffs did not receive an official apology but former
Portland Mayor Vera Katz said, "Mistakes were made ... you had to be blind
not to see it." Police also acknowledged making mistakes during the
protests and have since altered their tactics.

Subsequent protests have been "largely free of violent clashes
between police and demonstrators." Additionally, both Mayor Katz and the
police chief in charge during the 2002 and 2003 protests have since been

"This is a vindication of the people who protested against the
war," said Graf. People who protested should feel free to come back to
the streets.

After the settlement was entered, the federal district court
approved the plaintiffs' unopposed application for $545,000 in attorney's
fees. Graf said half of the attorney fees will go to the multiple
lawyers who worked on the case. The other half ... will go to the
Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, a new civil rights watchdog
group," which operates out of Graf's law office.

One month before the case settled, Graf reportedly sent an e-mail
to the plaintiffs threatening to close the Center's doors if we don't
come up with the lease of $120,000 from the plaintiffs."

Several attorneys who served as Graf's co-counsel protested his
pressuring the plaintiffs to contribute to the Center.

One of the plaintiffs, Lloyd Marbet, filed an ethics complaint
against Graf. Alan had an ethical obligation to represent my interests,"
said Marbet. In the course of this litigation, his own interests began
to become evident." Marbet's objection is to the acceptance of the
$300,000 settlement, which he sees as being bought off by the city.

If you win, you've sold out. If you're not struggling, you're
not a true activist," Graf said, wearily. It's a sign to the right that
they don't have to worry. The left will self-destruct."

For us to think we're going to reform the police bureau overnight
is a pipe dream," continued Graf. "That's what separates me and
Lloyd. Policy' is just paper. The money is going to get their
attention. The headlines will get their attention."

That's a legitimate perspective," acknowledges Marbet, but
because it isn't mine, it shouldn't be my attorney's." Marbet's bar
complaint alleges that Graf developed a personal and financial stake in
the litigation, particularly with respect to funding the Northwest
Constitutional Rights Center.

Source: The Oregonian

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