A disabled protester arrested by Portland police while in his wheelchair has accused officers of “trying to break” his arms.
Dustin Brandon, 35, who is also a comedian and cannabis-rights campaigner, said he was was arrested for the first time this week despite having attended almost each of the near 100 nights of protests triggered by the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd.
He was charged after police declared a riot and arrested up to 20 demonstrators after 150 protesters gathered outside one of the homes of Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, on Monday night.
As demonstrators chanted for Mr Wheeler to resign, and criticised him for failing to reform the city’s police force, somebody set fire to a picnic bench. A window was also broken in a black-owned business in the bottom of the tower in which Mr Wheeler property is located.
It was at that point that officers declared a riot, ordered people to clear the streets, and made up to 20 arrests. Mr Brandon, whose full name is Dustin Brandon Ferreira, was among them. He was charged with “interfering with a peace officer”.
Video taken by freelance journalist Justin Yau and posted on Twitter shows officers pulling grabbing Mr Brandon, pulling his hands firmly behind his back and handcuffing him twice with metal and plastic cuffs.
Mr Brandon later told The Independent the officers had assaulted him when he was arrested.
“They tried to break my arm – my right arm – when the first arrested me, while putting two pairs of cuffs on me, behind me. They ended up tearing my rotator cuff,” he said.
He said he believed the intention of the officers had been to intimidate him and other protesters.
“Maybe the charges will get dropped, or I’ll go to court. But it was an opportunity to physically get their hands on me and injure my arms,” he said.
“Honestly, as a guy in a wheelchair, my f****** arms are everything. If I’m marching every day, if I’m protesting every day. What would you do – punch me in the mouth or break my arm? I know what I’d do if I was a police officer.“
Mr Brandon, who moved to Portland five years ago, said he was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that leaves bones fragile and more likely to break.
He said he had spent his life in a wheelchair. Three years ago, he was struck by a car, breaking 28 bones and forcing him to give up wheelchair basketball.
Yet he said he was using the privilege he said he had as a “disabled white guy” to show solidarity with the protesters demanding racial justice for people of colour.
“I know what I’m doing. I know the risk I’m putting myself in and I understand that as a disabled white guy, the privilege that I present in this situation,” he said.
He said he expected a police officer would be less likely to arrest somebody in a wheelchair. He also apologised that for too many white people, including himself, it had taken the death of Mr Floyd to persuade them to join the struggle for racial justice.
“You [now] see such strong allies to the Black Lives Matter movement and to the black community,” he said. “And I apologise on behalf of the white community and myself, that the allyship in the community wasn’t there before George Floyd.”
A spokesperson for the Portland police department confirmed Mr Brandon had been arrested for allegedly interfering with an officer. As to the allegation that officers mistreated him, spokesperson Melissa Newhard said: “If there is a discrepancy about the amount of force used, a complaint can be filed which will be reviewed by the Independent Police Review.”
Nobody from the mayor’s office responded to enquiries.
Portland has seen persistent and continued protests for racial justice, while being denounced by Donald Trump as a place of anarchy and mayhem. A major protest is being planned for Saturday, which will mark 103 since Mr Floyd was killed.
The protest on Monday night had started with speeches by various activists including Mr Brandon, during which he took the opportunity to tell jokes, in which he poked fun at himself and the mayor.
“I have some unfortunate news for you. I’m actually Ted Wheeler undercover, and you’re all f****** because I have seen everything,” he said.
He completed his speech by saying: “You know why they don’t catch me every night – it’s because they see me in a wheelchair and then they see me walk home.”
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