activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: liz nichols

jury finds police officers not liable for occupy portland activist’s injuries

One day before the “pepper spray copdebacle at UC Davis in 2011, police officers gratuitously hit Occupy Portland activist Liz Nichols during a demonstration and pepper-sprayed her directly in the face. Nichols fell to the ground, was dragged by the hair through a police line, and was charged with three misdemeanors. According to last week’s Associated Press article,

[Officer] Paisley jabbed Nichols with a baton, and the baton then struck Nichols’ throat, according to video footage. Sgt. Jeffrey McDaniel then sprayed her mouth. A photographer for The Oregonian newspaper captured the moment.

Nichols’s attorneys at the Portland Law Collective filed an excessive force lawsuit on her behalf. Yet last Friday a jury found that the city of Portland and the two officers were not liable for Nichols’s injuries. That doesn’t necessarily mean the legal efforts were in vain, however. As CrimethInc. explains,

We should include the battle in the courts in our strategies, even if we don’t believe in the legitimacy of the law any more than our rulers do. In cities that have seen a lot of recent demonstrations and lawsuits, police departments are often more hesitant to beat and arrest protesters.

occupy portland activist to file lawsuit against police for pepper spray incident

She’s motivated to protest by the plight of her parents. Her mother has multiple sclerosis and her father was disabled by a back injury. They’re both surviving on his Social Security disability checks.

That’s the Oregonian’s description of Portland State University student Liz Nichols, who, one day before the “pepper spray cop” debacle at UC Davis, a Portland officer gratuitously pepper-sprayed directly in the face during a demonstration. Nichols fell to the ground, was dragged by the hair through a police line, and was charged with three misdemeanors. The Multnomah County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately replaced those charges with traffic-level offenses, which Nichols is still fighting.

Tomorrow her attorneys at the Portland Law Collective will file an excessive force lawsuit on her behalf. The suit alleges that in addition to violating Nichols’s rights, Portland has an unconstitutional policy of allowing pepper spray to be used on demonstrators even when they pose no threat to the safety of others.