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Black man who was thrown off bike and arrested without cause sues City of Portland for $475,000

Posted by on May 19th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Screenshot of story in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian reports that a northeast Portland man who was tackled off his bike, roughed-up and arrested in 2015 has filed a $475,000 lawsuit against the City of Portland.

An attorney for 23-year-old Anthony James Allen Jr. told The Oregonian her client was arrested without cause simply because he was black. Allen was cycling home from work when the police first made contact with him and began questioning him about an unrelated incident. Here’s more from Allen’s attorney as reported in The Oregonian:

“You need reasonable suspicion,” Albies said. “It can’t just be because ‘I feel like it.’ It can’t just be because ‘You’re black and I want you to do what I want you to do.’ … If that was me on my bike … there’s no way they would have done that. I’m a white woman.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday (PDF) says that Allen was profiled due to his race. Police were in Allen’s neighborhood because of a shooting that had occurred. Here’s what happened when Allen rolled up on his bike (from the lawsuit):

Once on his street, Allen approached his home on bike with grocery bags in hand. PPB Officer Colby Marrs appeared suddenly out of the shadows and yelled at Allen and his cousin to stop… Allen told Marrs that he had just gotten off work and was going home, and pointed to his house about two or three doors down. Marrs said “not if I have questions for you.” Allen explained that he had just spoken to two other officers who told him to go home. Marrs then told Allen that he was not going home, and that when “an officer tells you to stop, you fucking stop.” Allen, put off by this disrespectful behavior he did not deserve, said that he did not have anything to say to Marrs, and continued on his way home.

Instead of letting Allen go home, Marrs yelled at Allen and grabbed his shoulder. Marrs put his hand on his gun and called for backup, ordering Allen to the side of the street. As Allen attempted to comply with Marrs’ order by bringing his bike over to the curb and telling Marrs he was doing so, Marrs attacked Allen. Marrs grabbed Allen, threw him off his bike on to the ground, and forcefully leaned his knee into Allen’s neck and shoulders, handcuffing him. Allen’s groceries spilled out on the ground, and his bike hit his shins, causing pain and bleeding.

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Allen was acquitted by a jury three months later. His lawyers say the Police Bureau failed to adequately train its officers on racial profiling and made a false arrest that caused Allen physical and mental suffering.

News of this lawsuit broke on the same that that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hosted a lunchtime discussion session titled, Vision Zero and the Equity Lens. One of the major currents of that discussion is how to create safe street environments while making sure enforcement does not have an unequal impact on people of color and in designated “community of concern.” Increased police enforcement used to be considered a pillar of safe streets programs; but the City of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan was adopted with specific language that prevents increased enforcement. The reason? Fears of racial profiling similar to what happened to Mr. Allen.

Read more coverage of this story from The Oregonian.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Patrick
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Patrick

When a police officer tells you to stop–you have to stop.

E
Guest
E

What makes a police officer? It should be conduct, not costume.
Replica police costumes can be easily purchased by private citizens.
Thanks to persistent abuse of power and violations of citizens rights, in 2017 when someone in a police costume is doing whack shiz it is absurd for a minority male to assume they are an actual police officer or are acting within their scope of authority.
The officers he spoke with initially told him to go home and he was complying. At some point the man has to make a decision for himself, not just stumble around doing whatever any person in a cop costume tells him to do, hoping he isn’t shot in the back with his hands up.
Caucasians have no grounds to comment on what Mr. Allen should or should not do in such a situation. Interactions with police are clearly life and death situations for minorities, regardless of guilt.
You’re assuming they can just comply and sort out the issues later; so many documented murders of minorities by police make it clear that is not the case.

Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, the list goes on.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

screw the PPB, they are a bunch of idiots when it comes to incidents like this.

grrlpup
Guest
grrlpup

Held until 4 a.m. and put through a jury trial– none of it should have happened. Best wishes for this lawsuit.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Only 475,000? Should be at least 4,750,000.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Police had been scouring the neighborhood for a black man suspected in a shooting when they came upon Anthony James Allen Jr., said his attorney, Ashlee Albies.

Police refused to answer Allen’s questions about why they were stopping him, she said Thursday.

“You need reasonable suspicion,” Albies said. “It can’t just be because ‘I feel like it.’ It can’t just be because ‘You’re black and I want you to do what I want you to do.’ … If that was me on my bike … there’s no way they would have done that. I’m a white woman.” …” oregonian

By the Oregonian story’s report, the police were looking for black man, which by his picture, Anthony James Allen Jr seems to be. His attorney on the other hand, Ashlee Albies, says she’s a white woman. She doesn’t meet even the basic description of the person the police were looking for.

Some people might feel the police were rough with Allen Jr, though knowing that police were looking for a suspected shooter, which Allen does seem to have fit the basic description of, maybe this would moderate their view as to the degree of handling that was justified. When police officer Colby Marrs yelled at Allen to stop, did he stop? Can’t tell from the O story or the lawsuit. I don’t want to say that Allen just kept walking on after he was asked to stop, but he might have. Doing so could have intensified the suspicion of him by the officer.

The cops weren’t just looking for some dude wandering around drunk, peeing in the street. They were looking for someone that may have been a murderer. Sounds as though Allen, claimed to have already talked to a couple officers, may have known who the cops were looking for. Sure it’s annoying to have stop, again, to talk, again, with cops looking for someone whose description Allen happened to meet, but why not just do that? Stop, answer the cops questions, show him i.d., let him call up on his radio and confirm with the other officers what Allen said. I hope this turns out well for Allen.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

There is something strange about this case. The Multnomah County DA actually filed a misdemeanor charge against Allen and took it all the way to trial. Based on the events as described in this post, it is hard to understand why the DA would do that. The DA declines to prosecute arrested persons all the time, and drops filed cases too. They are shorthanded, and prosecutors don’t usually like to take pointless little losing cases to trial.

Either there are additional facts not stated in the post, or the DA made an unusual decision. The version of the facts stayed in the post appears to be taken entirely from Allen’s lawyer, so it is basically an advertisement for the lawsuit.

The relevance of this story to a bicycling blog puzzles me. Allen was on a bike but there’s no reason to think that his bike had any bearing on what happened.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Let’s not let this devolve into “white people defending cops” thread. Let’s see this for what it is.

Randee Peppercorn
Guest
Randee Peppercorn

The cops actions were about as racist as a 29er