ACLU sues federal agents in Portland, Oregon

By agency reporter
July 21, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon has sued the Department of Homeland Security and US Marshals Service, which have deployed federal agents to Portland, Oregon. These agents, which have been deployed over the widespread objections of local leaders and community members, have been indiscriminately using tear gas, rubber bullets, and acoustic weapons against protesters, journalists, and legal observers. Federal officers also shot a protester in the head with a rubber bullet fracturing the person’s face and skull.

The lawsuit seeks to block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers. The lawsuit is one of many the ACLU will be filing against federal authorities in Portland for their unconstitutional attacks on people protesting the police killing of George Floyd.

“This is a fight to save our democracy”, said Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon. “Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorising the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. This is police escalation on top of police escalation. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city. We will continue to bring the full fire power of the ACLU to bear until this lawless policing ends.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of legal observers and local journalists. Named plaintiffs include The Portland Mercury; Matthew Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photographer who federal agents shot 10 times in the back on Sunday; Justin Yau, a freelance journalist who federal agents attacked with tear gas; and Doug Brown, a legal observer who federal agents threatened to shoot. The individuals were wearing high-visibility shirts saying 'PRESS' or 'legal observer'.

“Cowardly attacks on those who report police misconduct to the world have no place in a free society,” said Matthew Borden, partner at Braun Hagey and Borden LLP.

The filing adds federal agencies to an existing lawsuit the ACLU of Oregon filed last month against local law enforcement. In that lawsuit, a federal judge issued an order blocking local law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers at protests until 30 October. This filing seeks to extend that order to federal law enforcement.

“What is happening in Portland is an unconstitutional nightmare”, said Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “This is not law and order. This is lawlessness. The ACLU will not let the government respond to protests against police brutality with still more brutality. We will continue to hold law enforcement at all levels of government accountable, just as we have nationwide.”

The ACLU has filed multiple lawsuits across the country in response to unconstitutional law enforcement attacks on journalists and protesters, including suing President Trump and other administration officials for the firing of tear gas on protesters outside the White House on 1 June 2020.

This latest lawsuit was filed by the ACLU Foundation of Oregon and Braunhagey and Borden LLP. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Portland Division.

* An earlier ACLU statement on reports of federal officers grabbing protesters off the streets is here

* Read the motion for a temporary restraining order here

* American Civil Liberties Union


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