Suit: Police used excessive force in Occupy march

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A photograph of an Occupy Portland demonstrator blasted with pepper spray as she opened her mouth to shout at a police officer became a defining image of the monthlong encampment.

Now, the woman in the photograph is in court to seek $155,000 in damages from the city of Portland, the officer who sprayed her and another she said put a baton to her throat.

Jury selection in a lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Evon Nichols began Tuesday. The trial will address whether Sgt. Jeffrey McDaniel's use of pepper spray was within bureau policy, and whether the officers' actions were reasonable.

The officers' defense team responded to the suit by saying Nichols was menacing the officers, and they reacted appropriately.

Nichols "actively, physically resisted lawful police instructions to move off of the sidewalk," the attorneys wrote in a motion. They said Nichols "aggressively moved as if to attack" the officers, whose actions were reasonable under the circumstances.

Nichols was among thousands of protesters who gathered in Portland on Nov. 17, 2011, in a demonstration against foreclosures by major banks. Protesters lined sidewalks as police vehicles warned them to stay off the pavement. Nichols was among several people who shouted at police from the sidewalk.

She said in the lawsuit that police officer Doris Paisley held a baton to her throat. When she protested, the lawsuit states, McDaniel sprayed her open mouth with pepper spray.

Nichols "was so overcome by pain that she flinched and spun away from (McDaniel)," according to the lawsuit. "She hunched over with her hands on her face. After a moment she felt her legs collapsing and sat down on the sidewalk."

Nichols said Paisley dragged her by her hair to a different spot where she was charged.

Last year, Nichols was convicted in Multnomah County Circuit Court of interfering with police officers. She was ordered to pay $130.

Now 22, Nichols says in the suit that officers McDaniel and Paisley violated her right to free speech and impeded her right to freedom from unreasonable seizure with excessive force.

Oregonian photographer Randy Rasmussen took a photograph of Nichols at the moment when she was pepper-sprayed. The photo played on newspaper front pages and won a National Headliner award.

The incident occurred a week after the Occupy Portland camp downtown was broken up by police. The Portland camp lasted a little more than a month, before it was ordered closed because of deteriorating sanitary conditions.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Top Stories

  • Scary Truth
    Jason Rantz says everyone needs to be mindful on the road, even pedestrians

  • The Rivalry
    Wilson & Kaepernick share this week's SI cover, so we decided to compare their offseasons

  • Boeing on the Field
    Boeing brings its aerospace innovation to players on the football field
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from MyNorthwest.com
In the community
Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.