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When Peaceful Protesting Hurts


Elizabeth Nichols, a 22 year old college student, was recently found guilty of failing to obey the police. Not obeying the police had more than one consequence for Nichols. Not only was Nichols charged with violations, as opposed to a crime, she was pepper-sprayed in the face and mouth at the scene of the offense, and shoved with batons.

Nichols has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Portland for excessive force. This is not the first time that Portland Police have been sued for excessive force—there have been several lawsuits, particularly when the police have shot and killed suspects.

For Nichols, she is yet another defendant of police brutality when it simply is unnecessary. The Occupy movement and other protesting groups generally aim to protest peacefully. Nichols is also not the first Occupy protestor to file a lawsuit for this kind of behavior. Several lawsuits, both in State and Federal court, have been filed in the past, and more are likely to be filed in the future.

The point to take away from this incident is that, while there is a constitutional right to peaceably assemble, that right may be literally trampled upon by the police and the legal system. This is not to say that you should not protest, but you need to be aware that there are both criminal defense and possible medical consequences of doing so.

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