Woman hit with pepper spray during N17 protest - KPTV - FOX 12

Woman hit with pepper spray during N17 protest

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A protester says she was pepper sprayed in the face by police during a skirmish outside a downtown Chase bank during a demonstration Thursday.

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The woman, named Elmira Rodriguez, says she was part of a crowd protesting corporate banks near Pioneer Courthouse Square when police asked them to move out of the streets. When they did, officers in riot gear pushed them back into the road, she says.

Rodriguez says a mounted officer then yanked the back of her hair and she fell down. She says she was pepper sprayed in the face upon standing back up and raising her arms.

"Burning, like your skin is peeling, is the only thing I can explain it as. Very hot, burning," she says.

The protesters weren't given any warning ahead of the pepper spray, according to Rodriguez.

"We just started smelling it and then I heard people saying, 'Pepper spray has been sprayed!' Then, just seconds after that, my skin started burning and I covered my eyes," she says.

The tension between the protesters and police was running high before Rodriguez says she was sprayed. Although the day-long protests against economic inequality and corporate banks were mostly peaceful, at least 34 arrests were made.

"You could feel something was going to happen. You could see riot police getting increasingly frustrated. Seconds later, the pepper spray happened," she says.

Portland police say they gave the crowds sufficient warning, but Rodriguez says it never needed to reach that point.

"We didn't have any where to go. There were horse police on all sides, riot police," she says. "We're in shock this happened to us. We are a peaceful protest."

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