Last Thursday, a Multnomah County jury found Jeremy Ibarra not guilty of “recklessly creating a risk” during a June 2017 protest in downtown Portland. Now, after the Multnomah County District Attorney's office spent a week fighting to convict Ibarra over a misdemeanor, he's pushing back.
Ibarra's attorneys sent a tort claim to the City of Portland this afternoon, warning the city that their client plans on filing a civil lawsuit for false arrest and battery at the hands of Portland police.
Ibarra was arrested during a June 4 counter-protest to a pro-Trump rally held outside of Portland City Hall during a particularly tense time—just days after a self-described white supremacist fatally stabbed two men on a MAX train. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) deployed dozens of officers to monitor the multiple protests, each cop dressed in all-black riot gear (heavy-duty protective uniform with military vibes) and visibly armed with a gun.
Ibarra was one of the 200 people eventually corralled by the Portland police (a crowd control tactic called "kettling") at the tail end of the protest, after a few people allegedly threw sodas at a line of officers. Once they had fully encircled the large group of people, officers used a loudspeaker to inform the hundreds of people inside the "kettle" that they were being detained.
It was a confusing moment: According to other people in the group, some officers were contradicting the loudspeaker demands and telling people to disperse. Ibarra reportedly tried to follow this command. But, when Ibarra attempted to run out of the crowd contained by police officers, two officers allegedly stepped in his way and he ran directly into them. After colliding with these officers, a number of police shot "pepperballs" at his chest (a paintball-like bullet filled with pepper flakes).
Ibarra was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. In December, Ibarra refused to accept a plea deal from District Attorney Rod Underhill's office, which forced his case to go to trial—an unusual twist in a misdemeanor case. After last week's 4-day-long trial, the jury eventually sided with Ibarra's attorney Crystal Maloney and defense counsel Ashlyn Ruga, who argued that their client was just trying to follow officer's orders in the midst of a chaotic mess.
Now, just days after being found not guilty, Ibarra has turned the tables on the PPB. In their tort letter, Ibarra's attorneys Maloney and Juan C. Chavez argue that PPB's use of "kettling" to detain hundreds of people at once was unconstitutional.
"The City clearly based their mass detention not on probable cause, but the prerogatives of picking and choosing which side of a free speech debate to single out for negative treatment," the tort reads. "The City detained people whom had not been marching, nor participating in any protest activity, such as journalists."
Chavez and Maloney also argue that the officer was wrong to shoot Ibarra with pepperballs, or "chemical munitions." They urge the city to settle with Ibarra once a civil claim is filed, instead of again taking him to court.
"Settling with Mr. Ibarra would be a productive first step in rectifying public trust in the City of Portland," the letter reads. It's unknown how much money Ibarra will request in the pending claim.
This isn't the only case against the city for PPB's actions on June 4. The ACLU of Oregon also has a pending federal lawsuit against the city for unconstitutionally detaining protesters in a kettle, in which ACLU lawyers demand the city scrap the flawed policing technique once and for all.