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Black photographer sues Sausalito for $21 million about arrest at homeless encampment


A Black photographer is suing Sausalito for $21 million, alleging his civil legal rights had been violated through an arrest at the city-operate homeless encampment at Marinship Park.

Jeremy Portje promises police breached his Initially, Fourth and 14th Modification legal rights when they detained him and seized his tools. The lawsuit calls for compensatory and punitive damages.

Portje, a Novato resident who has worked as a information photographer for the Impartial Journal and other businesses, stated he was operating on a documentary about homelessness in Marin when law enforcement arrested him. Police claimed he was interfering with their responsibilities and assaulted a police officer. The Marin District Attorney’s Business did not file felony prices.

The lawsuit was submitted on Feb. 18 in U.S. District Court docket for the Northern District of California. Portje announced the go well with Monday at a press convention outside the house Town Hall that drew more than 50 attendees.

“I want modify,” Portje said at the celebration. “I want to assure the safety of journalism, to safeguard the sanctity of journalism and the liberty of the push to convey to these tales and not allow governments to silence us.”

The lawsuit lists Sausalito, the Sausalito Law enforcement Division, Main John Rohrbacher, Detective Davin Rose, Sgt. Thomas Georges, Officer Sean Smagalski and Officer Nick White as co-defendants. Portje’s spouse Amy is also a plaintiff in the case.

Portje seeks $12 million from the metropolis and $3 million each and every from Georges, Smagalski and White, as nicely as reforms this kind of as a law enforcement critique board. Portje is vice chair of the Novato Law enforcement Advisory and Evaluate Board.

The lawsuit alleges Portje’s rotator cuff was severely injured in the course of the arrest. The go well with also stated he exhibited signs or symptoms of depression, this sort of as sleeping 18 several hours a working day and a absence of urge for food. He also expert concern of police reprisals, apprehension over law enforcement sirens and a depletion of curiosity in his journalistic pursuits.

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These instances resulted in shed earning ability and economic hardship on the relatives, the lawsuit stated.

Charles Bonner, a Sausalito-based civil legal rights attorney representing Portje, said in a interview this 7 days that the “No. 1 goal” of the lawsuit is to deliver accountability and coverage adjustments to the Sausalito Law enforcement Department. The goals consist of ending pedestrian stops ending car or truck stops the place public basic safety is not threatened and instituting an elected law enforcement evaluation board.

“We require to restore democracy in Marin County and my small town of Sausalito particularly desires to direct the way,” Bonner explained.

Bonner referred to as Portje “the epitome as to why we require these changes.” He mentioned the arrest was enthusiastic by “raw racism” from a Black journalist.

“Any power against an harmless guy under the constitution is for every se illegal and criminal,” Bonner explained. “There has to be zero tolerance for regulation enforcement participating in prison perform.”

Sausalito Mayor Janelle Kellman said the press meeting manufactured “disturbing allegations” in opposition to the police office.

“There has been a critique of credible evidence in this make any difference and we have found no information and facts to support any sign that this incident was about race as alleged,” she claimed Tuesday.

Rohrbacher could not be reached for remark Thursday.

According to the lawsuit, Portje was taking pictures footage for his documentary at Marinship Park on Nov. 30. Law enforcement officers had been existing.

In the course of a discussion with Smagalski, the discussion turned to political ideology. Portje asked Smagalski if he supports or is a member of the Oath Keepers, a significantly-correct anti-federal government militia. Smagalski “expressed annoyance” at the issue, the lawsuit states.

Soon soon after that, Portje noticed the officers huddled together, talking and pointing in his path, the lawsuit claims. Georges then approached him “with an officious and aggressive” manner, the fit suggests. When he achieved Portje, Georges turned his back again to him and allegedly blocked the camera.

Portje moved his digicam to the remaining, and Georges allegedly followed and continued to block the digicam. Times afterwards he turned and positioned himself to the entrance and facet of Portje, pressing his human body versus him, the lawsuit suggests.

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In the ensuing scuffle, Georges reduce his deal with when making an attempt to grab Portje’s digicam. He allegedly grabbed Portje’s hair and threw punches at him, yelling, “stop resisting.” Other officers appeared and ordered Portje to allow go of the camera. Georges then went at the rear of Portje and set him in a shoulder lock and took him to his knees, the lawsuit claimed.

Video footage showed officers restraining Portje, who created repeated inquiries about why he was staying detained. Homeless persons at the site called for Portje’s launch.

Police have said that Portje pushed Georges two times and thrust a digital camera into the sergeant’s encounter, leading to a black eye and a compact slice.

Footage taken by Portje was released with the lawsuit. The footage, which is with no audio, displays visuals of the law enforcement and homeless men and women just before Georges’ deal with fills the frame. The digicam watch jostles for quite a few seconds before ending in a static shot from the pavement.

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