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ACLU of Oregon suing federal agencies that sent agents into Portland

The ACLU of Oregon is suing federal agencies to block them from arresting journalists and legal observers.
Credit: Doug Brown, ACLU of Oregon
Federal Officers in Portland, Oregon. Doug Brown, ACLU of Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU) has sued the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service for the deployment of federal agents in Portland.

According to a release from the ACLU, it is suing the departments that 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 Sunday with a rubber bullet, fracturing the person’s face and skull."

The lawsuit seeks to block the federal law enforcement officers from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force against journalists or legal observers.

The ACLU of Oregon said in the release it plans to file many suits against federal authorities in Portland for the unconstitutional attacks of people protesting the 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 terrorizing 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. The named parties include:

The Portland Mercury; Matthew Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photographer whom federal agents shot 10 times in the back on Sunday; Justin Yau, a freelance journalist whom federal agents attacked with tear gas; and Doug Brown, a legal observer whom federal agents threatened to shoot. All were wearing high-visibility shirts that said “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 & Borden LLP.

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Oregon filed a suit against local law enforcement agencies and 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 Oct. 30.

“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.”

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