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HIGHLIGHTS: Black Unity & CLDC Sue Springfield Police, Alleging Collusion with Far-Right Militia

On March 8, the civil rights group Black Unity announced that they had filed a federal lawsuit against the Springfield Police Department, in partnership with the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

The complaint stems from the events at the now-infamous Black Unity-led protest in Thurston last July, which saw the SPD use excessive force on peaceful protesters, while ignoring the violence and threats coming from far-right counter-protesters that had massed in the neighborhood in opposition to the protest.

The Thurston protest was one of the most chaotic events of last year’s Uprising, but much of the details from the night remained murky for months. For example, those on the ground suspected collusion between the police and counter-protesters, who seemed to know exactly where and when the protest would be diverted down different streets. There were also suspicions that undercover officers had embedded themselves in the crowd to monitor its activities, but there was no evidence that proved such a clandestine operation existed.

Until now.

The link belows connects to the full text of the Black Unity/CLDC lawsuit, followed by highlights by James Croxton, who was on the ground in Thurston that night. All emphasis is added by DSM.

Be warned: the following text contains descriptions of police violence, abusive language, and mentions of racial slurs.

Members of Black Unity gather in front of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor mural in downtown Eugene to announce their federal lawsuit against the Springfield Police Department. Tyshawn Ford is second from the left; Lauren Regan, an attorney with the CLDC, is third from the right. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

CLICK HERE FOR THE CLDC LAWSUIT

Pg. 1:

The first thing that stands out is the sheer number of defendants — over 20. Also, a “request for jury trial.”

Pg. 5:

The complaint says that SPD’s actions “included unlawful detention, colluding with and informing violent counter-protesters about Plaintiff’s plans.” It also says that SPD “[conspired] with violent counter-protesters to amass and use force against Plaintiff’s.” SPD’s roadblock violated constitutional rights and further explains that they “allowed violent counter-protesters to attack, threaten, harass, intimidate, or otherwise engage in unlawful actions against protesters, including Plaintiff’s.”

Pg. 8/Pg. 34-36 – The Defendants

  • The City of Springfield
  • Chief Richard L. Lewis:
    • “Involved in planning; was physically present, assisting in the barricading and arrests at 67th and Dogwood.”
  • Lt. George J. Crolly:
    • “Involved in planning; moved up behind the crowd control line at 67th and Dogwood and held back barriers after Tyshawn Ford’s arrest.”
  • Lt. Matthew Neiwart:
    • “Involved in planning; physically present.”
  • Lt. Tom Rappe:
    • “Involved in planning; present at 67th and Dogwood- enforced the barricade; ordered and assisted in the unlawful arrest and force used against Mr. Ford.”
  • Sgt. David C. Grice
    • “Involved in planning; made a public statement at 67th and Dogwood improperly asserting an unlawful assembly.”
    • Grice was SPD’s internal affairs sergeant at the time of this incident and would have been responsible for investigating police misconduct.”
  • Sgt. Pete Kirkpatrick:
    • “Involved in planning; provided the Anti-BLM harassers protection and information about where the protesters were going to be corralled; helped enforce the barricades on 67th and Dogwood; responded to S. 68th for “traffic control.”
  • Sgt. Keith Seanor:
    • “Told a Black videographer that she could not go past the barricade, but that the Anti-BLM harassers could, because “they don’t hate all cops.”

Now, the Officers

  • A. A. Amundson:
    • “Enforced the barricade at 67th and Dogwood and assaulted/pushed protestors back with his baton.”
  • T. J. Bazer:
    • “Enforced barricades at 67th and Dogwood; delivered “focused blows.”
  • B. K. Bragg:
    • “enforced the barricade at 67th and Dogwood; struck protestors; assisted in the arrest and unlawful use of force against Mr. Ford.”
  • Joseph N. Burke:
    • “Heavily involved pre-event
    • Made racist statements while on duty, has apparent personal associations with racist residents
    • Went back and forth between enforcement at the barricades at 67th and 68th.”
  • D. L. Casarez:
    • “Enforced the barricade on 67th and Dogwood; responded to 68th and Dogwood with Defendant Conrad after Tyshawn Ford was arrested.”
    • Heard numerous armed Anti-BLM harassers saying ‘they would shoot these fucking [n-word],’ but took no action.”
  • R. J. Conrad:
    • “Enforced the barricades at 67th and 68th
    • His body-worn camera indicates he also heard of numerous armed Anti-BLM harassers saying ‘they would shoot these fucking [n-word’ but did not mention that in his report or take any action.”
    • “Based upon information and belief, told the Anti-BLM harassers where the march was being pushed.
  • B. P. Dunn:
    • “Enforced the barricade at 67th and Dogwood; pushed protesters.”
  • Bronson Durrant
  • J. Garcia-Cash:
    • “enforced the barrier on 67th and Dogwood and “fought” protestors according to his report; assisted in arresting Tyshawn Ford.”
  • T. J. Murray:
    • “Set up barricades
    • Filmed events.
  • J. J. Myers:
    • “Enforced the barricade at 67th and Dogwood; jabbed at protestors,
    • Deployed a pepper ball launcher “as a visual deterrent towards future riotous behavior.”
  • C. J. O’Leary:
    • “Enforced barricades at 67th and Dogwood; pushed marchers.”
  • Jared Quinones:
    • “Did not state any specific involvement but was present to help enforce;
    • Stated in his report, ‘Under normal circumstances [Geena] Shipman’s behavior would have constituted Disorderly Conduct II but her behavior was not isolated [sic] enough to mandate arrest.’”
  • R. A. Rosales:
    • “Used a pushed-over barricade to push protestors back at 67th and Dogwood; also went to 68th and Dogwood to enforce that barricade.”
  • E. A. Sorby:
    • “Enforced the barricades at 67th and Dogwood; struck protestors.”
  • M. J. Thomsen:
    • “Enforced the barricades at 67th and Dogwood; made numerous arrests;
      assaulted protesters.”
  • L. E. Turner:
    • “Went back and forth between enforcement on 67th and 68th, but mostly appeared to enforce the barricade on 68th; pushed Mya Lansing and Austin Johns.”
  • J. M. Wilson:
    • “Enforced the barricade at 67th and Dogwood
    • Stated: “Also in the area was an equally large group of pro-police protestors who responded to the area to protect the neighborhood and stand up for [sic] the national riots.”
    • Also said “The pro police protestors positioned themselves at S 69th Place and Bluebelle Way, but worked with police to assist Black Unity with leaving the area.
  • Detective Robert Weaver:
    • “Upon information and belief assisted with placing barricades;
    • Engaged in undercover surveillance of a political group engaged in lawful First Amendment activities.”
Pictured: The Springfield Police Department’s idea of “undercover surveillance.” (Taken July 29, 2020 // MG Belka // Double Sided Media)

Pg. 10-11

According to the lawsuit, “Defendant Burke told the Black Unity member that dispatchers had told him there were ‘associations’ with her vehicle, ‘and people involved with this vehicle,’ with Black Unity events, and referred to Black Unity as a ‘mob.’

He continued by saying “Well, I’ve heard that social media [sic] probably has some intention of ‘canceling’ this guy (the “guy” being the man with a noose in his front yard) and possibly destroying his livelihood…. Because that’s what you do.”

Burke proceeded to use his cellphone to call the noose-hanging neighbor (the phone number apparently already stored in his cellphone). Burke stated to the neighbor on the phone:

‘The Black Unity group is hell-bent on making an example of the noose that’s hanging around that skeleton’s neck. They don’t care – they’re intent on canceling you.’

“‘My feeling is all lives matter,'” he concluded.

Pg. 12

“Burke stated to the women [associated with Black Unity], ‘There has been a push and pull with police. We’d like you to stay within the boundary and the boundary gets broken. When we see frozen water bottles and rocks….'”

“The women responded that there had been no such assaults at BU events. Burke acknowledged, ‘I haven’t seen water bottles or rocks at your events.‘”

Pg. 13

“Upon [info] and belief, Burke and/or one or more other SPD Officers had indeed gone door to door telling Thurston residents that Black Unity was planning a huge protest and that the SPD would be overwhelmed and would need the residents’ help in resisting that protest.”

Pg. 14

“Springfield Police Officers went into the neighborhood a day or two before the Black Unity march to “warn” neighbors that the march was coming and that the police department believed it was going to be outnumbered.” They also “asked for neighbors to assist them in keeping the BU marchers out of the neighborhood during the march.”

“Black Unity activists immediately were drawn into conversations with local residents and members of an Anti-BLM mob that had gathered in advance and had been clearly alerted and enflamed by SPD, among others.”

Pg. 15

“Defendant Kirkpatrick directed Shipman (who later assaulted a protestor and made a false report to police about it) to a specific location that police were trying to ‘push’ the protestors toward.”

“Defendant Kirkpatrick offered this information after Shipman (as heard on her video, and within earshot of Defendant Kirkpatrick) discusses weapons she planned to bring to the protest and ‘taking America back.”’

“In another livestream posted by Ms. Shipman she is heard encouraging others to ‘just fucking hit’ the protestors and that ‘the cops don’t care, they’re on our side.’”

Pg. 16-17

“During the march, Plaintiffs were peaceful, and did not engage in trespass, property destruction, or violence. They chanted slogans, held signs, made speeches, and engaged in other forms of activity protected by the First Amendment.”

“Defendants Rappe, Lewis, Crolly, and Neiwart were ‘command staff’ with SPD for the July 29, 2020 protest, and made the decision to place barricades at Dogwood and South 67th Street.”

“Defendants Durrant, Murray, Myers, O’Leary, and Weaver, with the help of other Defendants, set up the barricades at the intersection of Dogwood Street and South 67th Street. At some point other Defendants also set up cones to prevent the march at the intersection of Dogwood Street and South 68th Street.”

At the barricade, Tyshawn Ford “asked for a supervisor. Another organizer for Black Unity also asked to speak with a supervisor. Again, they were ignored.”

Pg. 18

Some members of the Anti-BLM mob utilized the information provided by [Officer] Kirkpatrick, and drove around Springfield yelling and informing passersby that they knew the protestors were being blocked by police and that they were on their way to ‘go fuck them up.‘”

“The protestors asked Defendants whether they could walk past the barricades, why the Anti-BLM counter-protesters were allowed to be on the other side of the barricades, and again why the barricades were set up. Again, they were ignored.”

Pg. 19

The complaint alleges that the declared unlawful assembly was itself unlawful.

“[SPD’s} order was enforced based on perceived content-based discrimination and was not enforced against members of the Anti-BLM harassers, many of whom congregated and moved freely behind the police line, with Defendants taking no action against them.”

Pg. 21

“According to police records, Defendant Rappe directed Defendant Durrant and other Defendants at the front of the police line to arrest Mr. Ford, a known BU leader, in response to the content of his speech.”

“Defendant Durrant suddenly, without any lawful basis or warning, violently attacked Mr. Ford. After the sudden attack by Defendant Durrant, other Defendants rushed toward the crowd, pushing, punching, and striking Plaintiffs and other protestors without any lawful basis.”

Pg. 22

“Mr. Ford was violently pulled out of the crowd and away from the crowd by Defendant Durrant and other Defendants, including Defendants Garcia-Cash, Bragg, and Rappe. Defendants Rappe and Bragg dragged Mr. Ford by his feet/ankles.

“In his report regarding his justification for this use of force, Defendant Durrant wrote, falsely, ‘Ford audibly told me that he would not comply.’”

Pg. 24-25

“Upon information and belief, Defendant Durrant was motivated to attack Mr. Ford because he was offended and angered by Mr. Ford’s and other Plaintiffs’ protected speech.”

“Properly trained and supervised public servant law enforcement are expected to tolerate criticism and/or insults in the line of duty.”

Pg. 26-27

The Defendants selectively enforced the laws depending whether they thought a person supported or opposed Black Unity and/or Black Lives Matter – in essence whether they were for or against anti-racist and/or abolitionist ideology.”

“For example, Defendant Quinones stated in his report: ‘Under normal circumstances [Geena] Shipman’s behavior would have constituted Disorderly Conduct II but her behavior was not isolated [sic] enough to mandate arrest.’”

The bodycam audio between Officer Conrad and Officer Casarez:

“Casarez: ‘I want that fat bitch to go to jail.’ [referring to a Black Unity supporter].”

“Casarez: ‘These fuckers, I wanna lock even more of em’ up.’ [statement made after Plaintiff Ford and other BU supporters were arrested].”

“Casarez: ‘Finally, we did something though! Finally! Fuck yeah, dude! When they fucking took that thing off, both things – you good? – and they were trying to shove it back on us…

… and it was comin’ over and I fuckin grabbed it and just chucked it back, that stupid 12 year old [inaudible] took it right in
the fuckin face [laughter] like just right [inaudible]… At least we fuckin’ took a stand, just once [laughter].’”

“Casarez: ‘Five of em’, baby! Five down, how many to go? As many as we need.'”

Female voice on dispatch: ‘There are a couple of MMA fighters* with white pride shirts trying to start fights in the back…’”

“Casarez retorted, ‘Jesus Christ [inaudible]… Let’s minimize that a little bit, Jesus Christ.’

*This is likely in reference to Corey Wyatt, a known white supremacist in the area currently serving prison time. More on him later.

A male voice on dispatch also referred to the Anti-BLM mob as ‘patriots.'”

The complaint continues:

“Defendant Conrad left the intersection of 67th and Dogwood Streets, he informed Anti-BLM harassers that the protestors were headed ‘east.'”

Pg. 28

“As Defendant Conrad approached the police blockade at 68th and Dogwood Streets, a person standing on the street approached Defendant Conrad.”

“‘I wanna say something, can I just say something? Two blocks over, four trucks of people hopped in their trucks with guns and they rolled up and said were goin’ shoot these fuckin [n-word’s].'”

“Defendant Conrad responded: ‘Okay, okay, what am I supposed to do about it?’ The person responded ‘So you don’t care . . . ?’ To which Defendant Conrad said ‘I can’t do anything about it right now.'”

He then tried to turn his bodycam off.

Separately, when asked about why counter-protesters were allowed through the barricade, “Defendant Seanor told the woman that the members of the Anti-BLM mob were allowed to go where they please because they ‘don’t hate all cops.'”

Pg. 29

“One of the Anti-BLM harassers, Richard Dwayne Elce, struck Austin Johns in the face, with the end of a 6- to 8-foot-long flagpole, in plain view of several Defendants, including Defendant Turner. Elce has a prior conviction for assault.”

This really feels familiar…

“Neither Mr. Elce, nor any of Plaintiffs’ other attackers, were arrested at that time, despite breaking the law in front of police, with victims present who wanted to pursue charges. Mr. Elce was captured on video later in the evening continuing to threaten and attack people with his flagpole, allowed by police to continue to assault with impunity.”

Pg. 30

“Defendant Turner omitted from his report any mention of the assault and harassment of Ms. Lansing and Mr. Johns by the Anti-BLM harassers he had observed. Defendant Turner and other Defendants pushed the Plaintiffs farther down 67th Street where members of the Anti-BLM mob had gathered en masse – in part at the behest of Defendants.”

Pg. 31

“This mob consisted of well-known neo-Nazis such as violent felon Corey Wyatt and other known members of violent far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and The American Patriot Society… Many of the Anti-BLM mob were openly carrying weapons, including firearms, as further acts of intimidation.”

More on Wyatt:

The Charges

  • First Claim: 1st Amendment – Unconstitutional Restraint
    • Count 1 – against the City of Springfield
    • Count 2 – against individual defendants.
  • Second Claim: 4th/14th Amendment – Excessive Force
    • Count 1 – against the City of Springfield.
    • Count 2 – against Defendants Turner, Durrant, Garcia-Cash, Bragg, Rappe, and John Doe.
  • Third Claim: 4th/14th Amendment – Wrongful Arrest
    • Count 1 – Plaintiff Ford against the City of Springfield.
    • Count 2 – Plaintiff Ford against Defendants Durrant, Rappe, Garcia-Cash, and Bragg.
  • Fourth Claim: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 – Conspiracy to Deprive Civil Rights
    • By all Plaintiffs, against all Individual Defendants
  • Fifth Claim: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) – Conspiracy to Deprive Civil Rights, Based Upon Race or Class
    • By all Plaintiffs, against all Individual Defendants
  • Sixth Claim: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986 – Failure to Prevent a Conspiracy to Deprive Civil Rights
    • By all Plaintiffs, against all Individual Defendants

“Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court:

  • “Exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims and grant each of them a jury trial;
  • Award Plaintiffs economic and non-economic damages, in an amount to be ascertained according to proof, and interest on said sums from the date of judgment;
  • Award Plaintiffs punitive damages against the individual Defendants in an amount sufficient to punish them and deter others from like conduct
  • Award Plaintiffs’ reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as provided by 42 U.S.C. § 1988.”

The Demands

  • “Order a five-year plan to reform the Springfield police department, including the implementation of an independent monitor to oversee and address systemic racism, failures within the recruitment, hiring, training, promotion, supervision and disciplinary practices that result in civil rights violations.”
  • Mandate community policing reforms; including emphasis on impartial policing, and investigation and enforcement of hate crimes.
  • Mandate use of force policy reforms, including but not limited to banning the use of force against nonviolent people exercising constitutional rights as well as adequate training regarding the constitutional rights of the people to assemble and exercise those rights.”
Following their press conference, Black Unity led a march through downtown Eugene, which contained none of the drama of the Thurston march. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

Originally tweeted by 𝕁𝕒𝕞𝕖𝕤 – ʷʰᵉʳᵉ ⁱˢ ᵗʰᵉ ᵖʳᵒᵗᵉˢᵗ – ℂ𝕣𝕠𝕩𝕥𝕠𝕟 (@jwcroxton) on March 10, 2021.

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