The city of Portland, Or., is poised to pay a $300,000 settlement to 12 people who claimed police used excessive force against them during the protest of President Bush’s visit to Portland in August 2002 or two antiwar marches in March 2003, reports the Oregonian. A federal judge mediated the claims, and the City Council is set to approve the settlement today. Plaintiffs argued that the city violated protesters’ rights to free speech and free assembly by dousing them with pepper spray at close range and firing rubber stingballs into a crowd. Videotaped footage supported the claims. The total exceeds what the city has paid out for several officer-involved fatal shootings. Mark Stairiker of the city’s Risk Management Division, said, “It’s a big case, but when you divide it by 12, it’s fairly routine.”
“We hope that getting a settlement of this size will send a message and result in some more accountability than the police have had to date,” said Liz Joffe, an attorney for the group. “If they continue to attack peaceful protesters and use excessive force to suppress free speech activity, we’ll come back again and again until the city recognizes it’s too expensive and makes needed reforms.” Much pre-trial discovery focused on one officer, Mark Kruger, who was present at each demonstration. The plaintiffs accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer and sought to link that to a disdain for any “political dissent from the left,” court records show.