PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will introduce a new ordinance at the Nov. 8 city council meeting that would allow him to determine when, where and how long protests could take place within the city.
In addition, the proposed ordinance would allow Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner, to restrict how many people could participate in demonstrations.
The goal, according to the mayor’s office, is to prevent violent clashes between protesters, which Portland has seen several times in recent months. On Oct. 13, dozens of right-wing Patriot Prayer members brawled with left-wing counter-protesters in downtown Portland. Following the violent clash, from which no arrests were made, Wheeler called for a new ordinance restricting future protests.
“Portland is one of the most vibrant, livable and economically prosperous cities in the U.S., and we have a robust history of peaceful demonstrations,” said Wheeler in a news release. “But in recent years we’ve become a magnet for agitators either with a history of or an expressed intent to be violent.
“We created common-sense, content-neutral legislation to protect the safety and property of the public.”
The mayor’s office says the ordinance will continue to uphold protesters’ First Amendment rights while keeping the community safe. But activists, including the ACLU of Oregon, have raised concerns about restricting protests and the broad authority the ordinance would give the mayor.
"The whole point is, is to keep the groups separated as much as possible so everyone can exercise their first amendment right to free speech but without the exposure and likelihood of violence," Portland police chief Outlaw said.
Cities including New York, Seattle, Denver and Tacoma had similar regulations upheld in court, the mayor’s office said.
If passed, the ordinance would be in effect through December 31, 2019, at which point the council would need to renew it.