The Portland City Council unanimously approved a $50,000 payout Wednesday to a freelance journalist who said he was pepper-sprayed and beaten with a baton in retaliation for reporting on a downtown protest nearly three years ago.
Police had dispersed a crowd outside the Multnomah County Justice Center about 11 p.m. June 6, 2020, when Donovan J. Farley said he began filming a group of officers who had pinned a lone protester to the ground near Southwest Third Avenue and Main Street.
One of the officers approached and pushed Farley, who swung his arm back at the officer, according to the lawsuit filed by Farley against the city and footage taken by a news helicopter. The officer then struck Farley once with a baton and sent a blast of chemical spray into his face as the freelancer backed up, the video shows.
Farley, now 41, said in the suit he identified himself as a journalist and was wearing a badge from Vice News with his name on it during the use of force.
In a statement, Farley said he didn’t consider the outcome of the lawsuit to be “justice,” but said he settled it to prevent further harassment and help his family pay medical bills.
“This incident will not prevent me from continuing to report on these issues,” he said. “In fact, it has only redoubled my resolve to continue this work.”
City Attorney Robert Taylor said in a statement the settlement was mutually agreed upon and in both parties’ interests.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office considered charges of fourth-degree attempted assault and unlawful use of mace against the officer, Cameron Smith, but said a different video taken by police showed Farley acting combative and challenging the officer to take off his riot gear, the Portland Tribune previously reported.
Deputy City Attorney Mark Rodriguez told the City Council that the settlement would prevent further litigation costs, including the expense of hiring an outside attorney for Smith.
The lawsuit filed by attorney Jane Moisan in federal court last June had sought unspecified damages from both the city and Smith.
Portland Copwatch activist Mark Poris testified during the meeting that the city had now approved a total of $1,254,405 to settle protest lawsuits since 2018.
“We urge you to engage and discuss the policies that lead to these settlements,” he said.
Commissioners didn’t discuss the payout before approving it.
— Zane Sparling; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-319-7083; @pdxzane
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