January 26, 2015 / 9:35 PM / 4 years ago

Naked violinist sues Portland police over arrest

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - An Oregon man who claims his rights were violated last year when he was arrested outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland for playing his violin in the nude is suing the police department and others for $1.1 million. 

Matthew Mglej, 25, says officers used excessive force, unlawfully detained him and violated his constitutional rights when they arrested him during his free expression demonstration last May, according to the lawsuit filed in the Portland Division of U.S. District Court of Oregon last week. 

Mglej, of the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, says officers dragged him across concrete to the police car while he was naked, dropping him several times in the arrest process, according to the lawsuit. He also says he had cuts on his wrists from the handcuffs and was not allowed to contact a lawyer. 

Officials with the Portland city attorneys office declined comment, saying they had not yet been served with the suit. Portland police and officials with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, also named in the suit, declined comment. 

Police said officers responded to Mglej’s demonstration, in which he stripped off all his clothes, played his violin and made signs about freedom, after receiving numerous complaints.

Portland police said at the time that Mglej had been warned he would be arrested if he continued his naked demonstration. He was ultimately arrested for violating Portland city code, which prohibits indecent exposure. 

“The man was arrested without incident but would not cooperate and walk to the police car under his own power so he was carried by officers and placed into the vehicle for the ride to jail,” a police statement said at the time. 

According to the lawsuit, Mglej told responding officers that he was within his rights to demonstrate. His lawsuit says people were cheering him on and taking pictures. 

Mglej also says he suffered emotional pain because during the arrest he was separated from his service dog Belle, who helps him with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also says officers taunted him for crying and used unnecessary force while booking him in jail. 

Mglej could not be reached for comment and has a court hearing next month on the indecent exposure charge. 

Reporting by Shelby Sebens; Editing by Sandra Maler

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