Friday March 7, 2014
Entertainer Seriously Injured at Occupy Portland Blames Riot PoliceBonnie King Salem-News.com
"I said, 'I have a broken back, I need medical attention.' The cops grabbed me by my legs and drug me through the mud..."
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Justin James Bridges, a local musician and American Sign Language translator for Occupy Portland, was allegedly assaulted by the police during the camp clean out on Sunday afternoon. Many Portlanders know Bridges well, as he performs at hemp festivals, freedom rallies and has been a fixture at Occupy Portland since the beginning.
Protesters say that police had Bridges on the ground while he was being submissively compliant and they beat him with clubs in the back.
In response to public outcry, the Portland Police Bureau has released police video of Mr. Bridges being “dragged to safety” after they say he apparently “fell down”. Unfortunately the video they provided does not show Mr. Bridges the moments before he was injured.
The Police news release says that Justin Bridges “fell in between police, protestors, a trash can, and newspaper boxes”, and that the officers dragged Mr. Bridges away from “a very volatile situation”. Being in the front lines of a non-violent peaceful protest where the only weapons belong to the police brings into question what the real risk was, but that is a point that shall be debated with gusto in the near future.
The police state that dragging the injured person out of a crowded area is what they are trained to do; and they cite as example the situation a day before where Officer Curtis Brown was struck by a projectile and fell to the ground. They say that their police officer was almost immediately carried away from the front lines by officers to an awaiting ambulance. That difficult situation went like clockwork. The crowd even brought forward the perpetrator.
The video that the Police Bureau supplied clearly reflects a significant difference in the treatment of Mr. Bridges. Not only was there no awaiting ambulance for him to be immediately carried to, he wasn’t carried at all. They cuffed him while he lay on the ground, and then made a clearly injured man get on his feet and walk himself out of the area.
The statement from the police explains why they say Justin Bridges was cuffed: “Once safely behind the lines, he was temporarily flex cuffed as officers talked to him. Mr. Bridges let officers know that he had a previous broken back and was having some pain. Officers continued to talk with him as they called for medical personnel to respond. Mr. Bridges was able to stand and walk, with officers assisting, to a nearby park bench where they awaited medical personnel to arrive.”
Then, once the ambulance arrived, Mr. Bridges was placed on a stretcher and transported to the hospital. He was not arrested or cited. The video does not show Justin Bridges on a park bench or entering the ambulance, but there may be civilian video available that we hope will come forward.
The Police Bureau released this video as part of its continuing effort to be transparent. They reviewed their own video and say they also reviewed video taken by people in the crowd, and they contend that Mr. Bridges was never struck by officers.
On Monday, Justin James Bridges spoke from his hospital bed at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.
His story does not jive with that of the Portland Police Bureau news release.
Here is what Justin recalls, in his own words, “Yesterday during our general assembly down in camp, I was interpreting for the deaf, like I always do for a General Assembly. And the riot cops showed up, in the middle of the day. I put on an extra sweatshirt, thank God, and I put my leather jacket back on and continued to sign. And then they came in and started pushing, hitting people, destroying tables of food that we were feeding people for free.
“And then they started pushing people back, and in the process I got pushed into the trash cans. My back popped and I hit the ground. I had a broken back, prior to this. I said, “I have a broken back, I need medical attention.” The cops grabbed me by my legs and drug me through the mud, then proceeded to beat me saying I was resisting arrest. I put my hands behind my back and they said I was resisting arrest and tried to break my fingers. I play music for a living; I’m an interpreter for the deaf. They stood to take my livelihood from me.”
Protesters witnessing the traumatic event say they thought Bridges was dead when they saw his eyes roll back in his head, while police welded their power over him.
Justin Bridges said, “They kneed me in the back, where my back was broken as people were yelling at them that my back was broken. Then they got my hands zip-tied together and picked me up and I couldn’t feel my leg. They were screaming at me to stand up because I couldn’t stand on my leg, and then they said “we’ll just carry you if you can’t stand,” and I said “fine.”
"So they grabbed me by my elbows behind my back and lifted my arms above my head, and had a hold of the collar of my jacket and I had a bandana on and they were choking me. I told them, “I can’t breathe, you’re choking me.” A cop laughed about it and said, “You can still talk, you can breathe.”
"The next thing I knew I had been unconscious and was coming to, looking up at the trees.
“I asked, “Why am I being arrested? Why am I being treated like this? Why am I being brutalized?“ The cop laughed and said, “You’re just being arrested, you weren’t brutalized.” “I still couldn’t feel my legs. They were still screaming at me to do what they wanted me to do. “They didn’t arrest me, they didn’t charge me.“
Jacob Sherman provided the photo of Justin Bridges on a stretcher before being loaded into an ambulance at 1:40PM on the corner of SW 3rd and Main.
“I was acting as an unofficial legal observer,” Sherman said, “and was collecting the names of people arrested in Chapman Park and was relaying them to the National Lawyers Guild.
"Justin tried but, because of his injuries, he was unable to speak to me and tell me his name. He tried to sign something to me, a phone number perhaps, but I couldn't make it out. However the person on the left on the photo said, "Good luck, Justin" as he was loaded into the ambulance.”
As for the current status of Justin Bridges' broken back, he says doctors have told him that other than bruising, there are no new injuries, “the old injuries are just aggravated.” He is still suffering from pain in his arm and shoulder, and lack of feeling in one leg.
This chain of events took Justin by surprise, as he had some very enlightening connections with police on Saturday night, and was impressed at their humanity. He was on the front lines, face to face with officers during the eviction period, and was able to share with them that he believes each of them to be “part of the 99% too!”
“Don’t get it twisted, they are,” he says. He thanked them for what they were doing. Then, just hours later, the atmosphere changed.
“But those men that came into the park yesterday- those men are cowards. Those men do not deserve to have a badge. They weren’t protecting anything- they weren’t protecting property, not people, not its citizens. I’m a taxpayer, I own a business here.”
One Bridges supporter wrote on facebook, “I saw that the protesters turned over the guy that threw the "projectile" at the officer on Saturday. Will the Police turn over the officers that did this to one of the protesters?”
That is a good point. Leading by example is something our police forces should be compelled to do, and thereby earn the respect that their fellow citizens would bestow upon them.
Now would be a very good time to make that “transparency” philosophy walk the walk.
Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers. View articles written by Bonnie King
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