Teri Jacobs, an independent photojournalist, is suing the city of Portland and a group of Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers for injuries she sustained while covering a protest last month.
On August 18, Jacobs was covering a nightly protest against police brutality and racial injustice near the Multnomah Building on SE Hawthorne Boulevard. While documenting the police action against protesters, Jacobs was pulled by one PPB officer, shoved to the ground, and hit in the head, neck, shoulders, and face with a truncheon, or police baton.
The encounter was captured by another protest attendee and posted to Twitter that night:
Cop 37 shoves woman hitting her from behind in the head with baton, then hits her again in the face with baton while she is sitting on the ground pic.twitter.com/t4phwbWpsK
— John #PortlandProtest (@Johnnthelefty) August 19, 2020
It was also documented by journalist Laura Jedeed.
The officer who used force against Jacobs was identifiable only by the number "37" on the back of their helmet. That's because PPB officers are allowed to hide the names on their badges when responding to protests—supposedly to protect those officers from being doxxed and harassed.
In addition to naming the city of Portland and "Officer 37," Jacob's legal complaint filed with the United States District Court in Oregon also lists "John Does 1-20"—other officers present and PPB supervisors who allowed Officer 37's actions—as defendants.
"As Ms. Jacobs was knocked to the ground, she was terrified that the officer was going continue to attack her and she feared that she might never get up again if he continued with his violent attack," reads the complaint. "When Ms. Jacobs looked up to see if another blow would come, Officer 37 bashed Ms. Jacobs in the face with his truncheon."
"An entire squad of Portland Police Officers witnessed this act, failed to intervene, and allowed this officer to walk away after committing a violent crime against Ms. Jacobs," the complaint continues. "This action caused Ms. Jacobs emotional and physical injury, and she now sues the Defendants for this violation of her civil rights and battery."
Jacobs is requesting a full jury trial, and is being represented by attorneys from the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC). A press release from OJRC points out that PPB's own directive, titled Use of Force Directive 1010, dictates that “[a]ny use of force likely to cause death or serious physical injury, including the use of a firearm, carotid neck hold, or strike to the head, neck or throat with a hard object" could be considered deadly force.
"Deadly force is only authorized to protect officers or others from immediate threat of death or serious injury," OJRC's press release states. "Teri Jacobs was walking away from Officer 37 when he attacked her from behind."
Jacobs is seeking punitive damages and attorneys' fees from the city and PPB officers involved in the incident. Her lawsuit is one of several lawsuit filed on behalf of journalists covering Portland protests, against both local and federal law enforcement. (Full disclosure: The Mercury is taking part in some of these lawsuits.)
In the OJRC release, Jacobs said she is "still suffering from the attack."
"It was really scary because it felt like Officer 37 was targeting me for documenting the protest, when I clearly wasn’t posing a threat," she added. "He showed total disregard for my life and safety.”