"IT WAS SCARY, we were just drinking juice and watching the cheerleaders," says two-year-old Felix Rossell, describing how it felt to watch her father, Matt Rossell, get tackled to the ground and hauled off in handcuffs by Lloyd Center security guards on Saturday, February 7.
Rossell led Portland's chapter of In Defense of Animals (IDA) in a long and controversial struggle against Schumacher Fur, which in the spring of 2007, left its downtown location, and Portland, forever. Rossell later won a lawsuit filed against him by the store's owner, Gregg Schumacher, accusing IDA and its fellow protesters of "eco-terrorism," among other charges.
Since his daughter was born, Rossell has kept a lower profile—occasionally dropping by protests outside Scamp's pet store in the Lloyd Center mall. Activists have been speaking out against the store's alleged sale of puppies from puppy mills—a claim Scamp's has publicly denied. Scamp's did not return a request for comment on this story.
Rossell dropped by Scamp's again with his wife and daughter on Saturday to watch a protest outside the store, put on by the Radical Cheerleaders for Animal Rights—a protest group which uses cheerleading to make its point. After the cheerleaders were done, Rossell says he was talking with people walking past the store, asking them if they knew about the store's alleged dependence on puppy mills.
"Then I walked over to where my wife and daughter were, and a [security] supervisor came up and said, 'We're going to arrest you.' He never asked me to leave or gave me an opportunity to leave," says Rossell. "He said, 'We excluded you. We told you that if you ever came back here again you'd be arrested.' And I said, 'You never said any such thing at all.'"
Rossell says he was never given the opportunity to leave the mall, nor has he ever been presented with any paperwork showing he has been excluded from the mall. Indeed, during his past attendance at Scamp's protests, Rossell says he has engaged in several long and civil conversations with Lloyd Center security.
"They had every opportunity in the past to write an exclusion if they wanted to, and I certainly would have obeyed it if they had," says Rossell. "But I would never have invited my daughter into a situation where I felt I was risking arrest."
The next thing Rossell knew, he was being tackled to the ground by a Lloyd Center security guard, restrained by another, handcuffed, and hauled off to be formally arrested by a police officer in the mall's offices. The incident was captured on video by onlookers and is currently available on the Mercury's website.
"There are situations where activists choose to get arrested," says Rossell. "But this wasn't one of them."
Rossell was booked at the Multnomah County Detention Center for trespass in the second degree as well as disorderly conduct in the second degree, and subsequently released. Police spokeswoman Mary Wheat declined comment on the arrest pending a decision by the district attorney's office over prosecution.
Oddly, the Lloyd Center's security operations manual appears to expressly forbid any use of force by its security guards.
"We do not detain, restrain, nor use force to resolve conflicts or disruptions," reads page four of the Ohio Retail Security, LLC (ORS) operations manual. ORS is a subsidiary of the Ohio-based Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns the Lloyd Center.
"A security officer should never confuse his/her role and function with that of a police officer," the manual continues on page nine. "Ohio Retail Security, LLC, policy does not include restraining or detaining persons.
"The only time physical force or contact is allowed is to defend yourself when attacked or to break up a physical assault on your property," the manual states, on page 10—going on to warn security guards that if they do use force, and injure someone, then ORS declines legal liability, and security guards could be left to fight civil lawsuits on their own.
Rossell went to his doctor with severe back pain on Monday, February 9, and is consulting with attorneys over his next move.
Questions remain over whether Lloyd Center Security Manager, and former Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy, Mark Hanson, has been encouraging security guards to make similar "arrests" in contravention of official ORS policy at the mall for the last several months, as is rumored, or whether Rossell's treatment was an isolated incident. Hanson did not return the Mercury's repeated requests for comment on this story.