An elderly activist filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this week alleging his First Amendment rights were violated after a Portland police officer "attacked" him with "chemical weapons" (likely pepper spray) during a protest this summer.
Joe Walsh—the fiery 75-year-old veteran who's a mainstay at local government meetings, where he often vociferates about the police and government officials while wearing message-clad shirts and lugging his tank of oxygen—filed the the lawsuit on Tuesday against the City of Portland, the Portland Police Bureau, and Mayor Ted Wheeler. He's claiming he was hit with the "chemical weapon" at the massive June 4 counter protest of the Patriot Prayer rally. The ACLU of Oregon recently filed a class action lawsuit against the city, Wheeler, and police officers for different policing tactics that day.
"On June 4, 2017 I attended a large protest located in Chapman Park, Lowsdale Park, and in front of City Hall," the complaint reads. "I am a 75 yr. old veteran who is on 24/7 oxygen and is in poor health. I was attacked without notice by the Portland police using unknown chemical weapons. I had to be removed from the park before permanent damage was done to me."
Walsh, who file the suit without an attorney, is "asking for a permanent injunction against the City of Portland in the use of chemical warfare against their citizens. Because of the severity of the action taken by the PPB I am asking for $500,000 in total damages."
In 2015, Walsh, again acting without an attorney, filed suit against then-Mayor Charlie Hales after Hales tried to permanently ban him from attending city council meetings. Federal Judge Michael Simon ruled in his favor and against Hales.
"A permanent injunction will protect the First Amendment rights of Walsh and other similarly-situated individuals without unduly burdening defendants,'' Simon wrote. "A contrary holding might lead to officials shutting the government's doors to those whose viewpoints the government finds annoying, distasteful, or unpopular. Permanent or even lengthy exclusions for past disruptive conduct could become a convenient guise for censoring criticisms directed toward the powerful."