PORTLAND – The city will pay $75,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a woman arrested by Portland police in 2019 after she was seen twerking in a bike lane downtown and had flipped off officers during a protest.
Alonna Mitsch was acquitted of second-degree disorderly conduct at trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court in February 2020. Under the lawsuit settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland earlier this month, the city says the payout to Mitsch is “not to be construed as an admission of liability.” Portland’s City Council approved the settlement on June 1.
Mitsch’s lawyer, Maya Rinta, has argued Mitsch was arrested for “twerking in a bike lane” to an N.W.A. song with explicit lyrics, having participated in a counterprotest and stand against white supremacy in August 2019.
Mitsch also challenged the arrest before Portland’s Citizen Review Committee, which hears appeals of findings in police misconduct complaints. The committee last year voted 6-4 to affirm the Police Bureau’s finding that the arrest was reasonable, though many members said they were disturbed by police actions.
At the committee hearing, Mitsch said her arrest was traumatic and she felt police had targeted her because of her dancing. Her attorney told the committee members that the arrest seemed particularly unreasonable when police had escorted Proud Boys and their supporters across the Hawthorne Bridge that day, yet her client, who is Black, was arrested.
Portland police Cmdr. Erica Hurley defended the arrest at the hearing, saying officers had probable cause to arrest the woman who wasn’t allowing traffic to move through. Police cars need to get through traffic just like any other cars, she said.
In another settlement, the city is poised to pay $30,000 in a lawsuit filed by Erica Christiansen in Multnomah County Circuit Court. It goes before the City Council for approval on Wednesday.
Christiansen alleged battery against the city in an encounter with Portland police on Aug. 9, 2020. Around 10:30 p.m. Christiansen was on the sidewalk in the 2000 block of North Kilpatrick Street when an officer pushed her to the ground and shot her at point-blank range five times with penetrating plastic buck shots as he stood over her, the suit alleged.
Christiansen was visiting a friend’s apartment while a protest was occurring at a park nearby. She and others in the area shouted at police to leave the neighborhood when an officer singled Christiansen out, tripped her and then fired less-lethal shots at close range, striking her in the breast, groin, hip and upper thigh, according to her lawyers.
The city argued in court papers that the officers’ actions were lawful, justified and necessary to carry out their duties amid a declared riot.
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