Hannah Ahern sits handcuffed shortly after her August 17 arrest.
Hannah Ahern sits handcuffed shortly after her August 17 arrest. STEPHANIE KEITH / GETTY IMAGES

A woman arrested during a 2019 protest is now suing a Portland cop for fabricating evidence to support her arrest. Her lawyers allege the officer used the arrest as a way to retaliate against her for expressing her disgust in police.

Hannah Ahern was arrested on August 17, 2019, on the outskirts of anti-fascist protest taking place at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The protest was held in opposition to another rally taking place on the waterfront organized by the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group (now known for leading the January 6 attack on the US Capitol).

Ahern was leaving work downtown when she noticed the counter-protest, and stopped to see what was going on. That's when she observed a woman thrown to the ground by Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers, yelling in pain as police handcuffed her (that woman was later cleared by a jury). When officers yelled at Ahern and others to back away from the arrest, she crossed the street.

“I wanted to express my general disagreement with what was going on,” Ahern told the Mercury at the time. “I felt compelled to show disgust.”

So, when a vehicle carrying heavily armored cops parked in the middle of Southwest 3rd Ave., Ahern made a point to spit on the pavement in their direction before walking away. Her saliva landed several feet away from the officers.

Within seconds, she was surrounded by cops on bikes, who grabbed her arms and kicked the back of her knees, forcing her to the pavement as they snapped handcuffs on her wrists. Officers wouldn't tell her why she was being arrested. She left the scene in an ambulance after having an asthma attack in the back of a police van. Only later did she learn her charges: Obstructing vehicular traffic with an “intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, and alarm.”

Ahern didn't buy the charges, since she was following police orders to disperse at the time she was arrested. The courts agreed: Her case was ultimately dismissed on March 11, 2020.

But Ahern's not letting the incident go unaddressed.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Ahern's lawyers argue police violated her constitutional rights by detaining Ahern without cause, fabricating evidence against her, and retaliating against her for engaging in a protest. The lawsuit centers on Erik Kammerer, a PPB police detective who was assigned to the bureau's Rapid Response Team (alternatively known as riot police) on August 17.

Kammerer was the officer who directed PPB bike cops to arrest Ahern that afternoon.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys with the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), accuses Kammerer of lying in his police report following the event. In that report, Kammerer claimed Ahern walked out in front of a grey truck, forcing the driver to hit the brakes, nearly hitting her.

But video of the incident shows Ahern had walked past the grey truck when it braked, and that it was never close to hitting her.

"As the... video demonstrates, Defendant Kammerer's version of his events in his report is a fabrication," the lawsuit reads.

Ahern's lawyers argue that Kammerer fabricated this evidence as an easy way to retaliate against Ahern for spitting on the ground.

"Because Ms. Ahern dared to demonstrate her visceral disgust with what she saw of PPB's conduct that day, Defendant Kammerer targeted Ms. Ahern for arrest," reads the lawsuit.

Since Ahern's arrest, Kammerer has become a notorious fixture in PPB's protest response, making a name for himself as one of the most abusive officers responding to 2020's racial justice protest. PPB pulled Kammerer from the Rapid Response Team in October, after Willamette Week published detailed allegations of his actions against people near protests.

The lawsuits states that Kammerer's conduct is in line with PPB's "pattern and practice" of disproportionately penalizing anti-fascist protesters during demonstrations led by right-wing extremists.

Ahern has requested a jury trial to resolve this case.