A disturbing photo of a peaceful female demonstrator being hit directly in the face with pepper spray during an Occupy Portland action is gaining national attention while coming to symbolize police overreaction to American citizens exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The Oregonian reports about the now iconic photo taken on November 17: “A police officer deployed pepper spray at SW Yamhill, between the JP Morgan Chase bank and Pioneer Courthouse Square. The photo was taken from the southeast corner of the square, looking toward the intersection of 6th and Yamhill after a day of marching through downtown Portland, Ore., by Occupy Portland participants.”
The photo, taken by Randy L. Rasmussen for The Oregonian, has gone viral. Critics of the Occupy movement cheer the police use of force. However, Occupy supporters and other civil libertarians worry that the image is symptomatic of a growing militarization of local police forces across the country, and a national drift towards a police state that is contrary to American values of liberty and a free and open society.
The Oregonian reports that “People gathered on the east side of the Steel bridge earlier in the morning to demonstrate in support of the Occupy movement, on the day known as N17. Several people were arrested and the march continued over the lower span of the bridge into downtown, where a rally was planned. Later in the day people were arrested in a Wells Fargo branch downtown.”
About the incident one self identified witness reports:
I am the girl flashing the peace sign next to woman. We are not “doing” anything yet because they sprayed her without cause, notice or anything! We were flashing peace signs, chanting peaceful protest and we had our arms linked to prevent us from falling. It was either her or me. I believe, that I wasn’t sprayed because I had eyeglasses, a hat and my hoodie from my raincoat up. There was NO warning AND we were not the ones in the street. WE are on the sidewalk and had managed to stay there despite being pushed by mounted cops on the other side of us. There were, from my understanding, a few (less than 10) persons in the street. As reported by the Portland Mercury, the cops were the one blocking the street.
The following is a sample of comments about the photo, and the circumstances surrounding the photo, from The Oregonian’s Posterous, a website dedicated to photos and thoughts from The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Oregon:
It must take a mighty, mighty big man to get all armored up, while surrounded by reinforcements, and spray a U.S. citizen with mace for exorcising their inalienable rights. Never mind whether said citizen is female or not.
The police state isn’t coming, it’s already here. This is what a police state looks like.
Why is it legal for the police to spray poison chemicals on US citizens who are currently exercising their constitutional right to assembly? Who do these police represent? Who pays them and trains them to turn against their own people?
I simply cannot understand how any person can look a fellow person in the face and do this. Period.
Some people are fascists. They enjoy causing suffering to innocent people. They usually become cops, trolls, or elected officials.
If you live in a police state, as we do, and you vote, no matter who you vote for, you are granting your consent of the governed to a police state and our blood is on your hands.
I find this unacceptable. I expect better from Portland.
What do you think – police brutality, or an appriopriate use of force?