In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Marshals Service and the City of Portland on behalf of several volunteer street medics, Time reports. Street medics in Portland and elsewhere, many of whom are also activists, accuse federal agents of “targeting and attacking” them as they tried to perform their duties amid protests against police brutality, according to Time.
Shane Grannum, a Perkins Coie attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, said in a statement to Time that federal agents and Portland police “violated the constitutional rights of our clients to protest and lend medical services, supplies and treatment to protesters.” Portland protesters accused local police of violating their rights long before federal agents showed up and employed aggressive tactics. They say the problem persists, even though federal officers are no longer in Portland.
Rights groups have said law enforcement is targeting street medics at protests nationwide. Human Rights Watch highlights police shoving medics and destroying their supplies in North Carolina, police firing “so-called less lethal weapons” at medics in Texas and a police officer pinning down a medic with his knee before arresting and detaining him in a crowded cell in New York.
Chris Wise, a volunteer medic and one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, spoke to Time about his experiences trying to assist protesters in Portland. According to Time:
Wise, who is biracial (his mom is African American; his father is Norwegian and German), works as a receptionist for his day-job and previously went to school to be an EMT. The protests have left him bruised and battered. Last month, he was struck with a tear gas canister in his head, leaving him with a concussion and a “fairly sizeable hematoma on the side of (his) head.” But he is still determined to continue showing up because the “significant risk” to his community “outweighs the risk to his personal safety,” he says.
“You can hit me in the head with as many tear gas canisters as you want, I’m still going to show up and try and help in whatever capacity is safe for me to do so,” Wise says.
Wise was also shot in the leg months ago and the wound got infected, he’s been hit by pepper bullets and in the foot with flash bang grenades, shoved to the ground and sprained his shoulder. He takes every Sunday off for his mental health…
Another medic named Michael Martinez was arrested in Portland on June 13 “while packing up the OHSU medic tent after protesters were gassed and beaten,” Time reports. “I was arrested doing one of the safest vanilla jobs as a medic, which was running a table that handed out supplies,” he explained to Time. Since his arrest, Martinez says he no longer wears anything that indicates he’s a medic because he believes they are intentionally targeted by officers.
DHS so far has not responded to Time’s request for a comment on the lawsuit. According to Time, representatives for Portland’s mayor’s office and the U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment on pending litigation.