A local activist has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Salem and Salem police, accusing officers of targeting him as he counter-protested outside a Planned Parenthood in 2021, shooting him with non-lethal munitions and wrongfully arresting him.
The incident took place during one of many confrontations outside Salem’s only Planned Parenthood on Wolverine Street and Lancaster Avenue.
In 2021, Pastor Ken Peters’ The Church at Planned Parenthood began gathering regularly at the Salem clinic to protest abortion services, often aligning with extremist group the Proud Boys for security.
Anne Udall, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, told the Statesman Journal the protest was “designed to shame and intimidate our patients, and keep them from accessing health care, no matter what the consequences.”
The group attracted counterprotesters.
Read more:As anger grows over Proud Boys clashes, city officials say they have ‘few options’
Clifford Eiffler-Rodriguez attended the counterprotest of the church group on Aug. 10, 2021, and voiced his opposition to the group using a megaphone.
Proud Boy members were seen firing paintballs and spraying chemical irritants at counterprotesters, according to reporting from the Statesman Journal.
When Salem Police, including several officers in riot gear, arrived, Eiffler-Rodriguez dispersed but kept using the megaphone.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court Feb. 10, a Salem Police officer pushed Eiffler-Rodriguez with a baton and then officers fired 40mm non-lethal munition rounds and pepper balls from point-blank range.
“They shot him at least three times in the chest, once in the left thigh, and once on his upper right arm,” states the lawsuit Oregon Justice Resource Center attorney Alex Meggitt filed. “Each impact had enough force to break the skin. The bruising from the impact munitions would last for weeks.”
No other protesters were near Eiffler-Rodriguez at the time.
Salem Police Officer Judy Dan then tackled and arrested him. Eiffler-Rodriguez was charged with harassment and interfering with a police officer.
Five months later, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Eiffler-Rodriguez on the basis that “further investigation reveals it would be in the interest of justice that said action be dismissed.”
Eiffler-Rodriguez’s attorney said the incident exemplified excessive and unconstitutional force by police.
The counterprotest did not constitute a riot, according to the complaint.
Meggitt said Eiffler-Rodriguez was not committing any crimes and not engaging in riotous behavior.
He said Salem Police’s pattern of allowing officers to use “crowd control” and “less than lethal” weapons against individuals who are engaged only in passive resistance and who pose little or no threat of harm to others showed a lack of training and was unconstitutional.
The complaint asked for “economic, non-economic, and punitive damages” to be determined at trial.
Salem Police declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit, citing its policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 503-910-6616 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth