PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Police Bureau released video Friday of a police officer pepper spraying a woman during the N17 protest downtown Thursday.
According to police, 20-year-old Elizabeth Evon Nichols had been repeatedly told by police to disperse. After she was hit by the pepper spray, police say they doused her face with water and then arrested her for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.
Watch the video of Nichols being pepper sprayed.
Occupy Portland protesters say Nichols vomited right after being sprayed in the face but was able to wash out her eyes and nose.
"One of the officers put the baton up to my neck," Nichols said Friday morning after she was released from jail. "It was literally cutting in on my airway. Once she backed off I started yelling at her. Then all of a sudden, in the middle of me yelling at her – that’s no way to treat a protester or anybody – they ended up spraying me with pepper spray full blast."
It was a public relations battle Friday. Both sides blamed each other for what happened during the confrontation near Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Police say actions taken by protesters like spitting at officers led to things getting physical between themselves and demonstrators.
"You see (in videos) people pushing officers; you see people hitting our horses; you see people flipping officers off," said police spokesman Lt. Robert King.
In one piece of video shot by police a man in a blue coat, who they haven't identified yet, can be seen either punching or elbowing a police horse, prompting it to turn away.
Mal Chaddock, a Veterans for Peace demonstrator, quietly marched in front of the police bureau Friday afternoon and was appalled by the pepper spraying.
"Oh my God. That's way over the top. That poor girl. ... It doesn't matter how vocal you are, that's not the type of response you should get," he said while wearing a picture on his shirt of a dramatic Oregonian photo that captured Nichols getting peppered spray in the face.
Occupy Portland protesters claim the police pointlessly endangered people's lives and tied up traffic and used their horses to charge peaceful protesters, forcing them onto MAX tracks.
They point to videos like one showing a bicycle officer's interaction with a protester as examples that demonstrators did nothing to warrant a violent response.
In that video, it appeared the officer purposefully rammed his bike into a protester, who then fell to the ground.
Police spokesman King said he doesn't like to think of the different perspectives on the incidents as a PR war.
"I don't like the metaphor/example. It's not a war were engaged in – basically managing a complicated situation, preserving the rights of all people and keeping things safe and peaceful," he said.
Police confirm two instances of pepper spray use, but several protesters said they documented 12 cases.
Occupy Portland at Chase Bank
November 17, 2011
We started out by occupying the lobby in Chase bank. I had sat down and locked arms with the man next to me and the riot police immediately barged in. They pulled me away from him and the others asking if I really wanted to be arrested, I told them yes, please arrest me, instead they just told the other officers to just pass me down the line to the other side of the street. I see a friend of mine over in front of Chase bank and I go to talk to him and see what footage he is getting. That's when they started telling us to get out of the street to let traffic through. We all get on the side walk and after a few minutes they start pushing us down the side walk like we were still blocking the street from the sidewalk. I was going to try to get out of there until I saw them start stabbing people in the stomach and ribs with their batons. At one point they had shoved us against a large metal box on the sidewalk, something almost as big as a TriMax ticket kiosk and we couldn't move anywhere, but they kept shoving at us anyways. That's when I decided to lock arms with the people on either side of me and try to hold a line against them so no one would get hurt. Suddenly an officer shoves her baton up against my throat and blocked off my airway for a few seconds. Once she let go I started screaming at her, That's no way to treat anybody. Not even halfway through this sentence they decide to pepper spray me. As soon as it hit I couldn't see anything and my face felt like it was on fire, so I sat down with my arms looped at my sides waiting for anyone to come get me and help me. I hear people around me screaming for a medic and all of a sudden an officer grabs me by the hair and pulls me towards the bank. This action is repeated and finally they cuff me and carry me into the bank. Inside some of the officers say that I smell like I had been sprayed and I am almost screaming in pain. The officer next to me keeps repeating Shhhh, the babies are sleeping. After about 2 or 3 times of saying this, I tell him I don't care and to get the spray off of me. Finally they take me outside and pour water on my face and in my mouth. Afterward I still couldn't see but it didn't hurt nearly as bad and I could breath and talk easier. When they brought me back in I kept telling them, I have a eczema, it's a serious skin condition, the spray is going to make it flair up. No matter what I said or how many times I said it they wouldn't give me any medical treatment even while I was in booking and processing.
Elizabeth E. Nichols
Police video of a man punching a police horse