Judges prohibit federal officials from targeting journalists in Portland

Federal law enforcement officers, deployed under the Trump administration’s new executive order to protect federal monuments and buildings, face off with protesters against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 18, 2020.

Nathan Howard | Reuters

Federal officials should not target journalists or legal observers at racism-protest protests in Portland, Oregon, a judge ruled, extending a prohibition that was already in effect for local police and for local activists Used to win

US District Judge Michael Simon issued a temporary restraining order against the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of those who were monitoring the demonstrations and reporting them. Were doing, which happened to be close-by. Two months.

Simon said in a Thursday night order that the tactics by federal officials, including evidence that he specifically targeted journalists and legal observers who were clearly identified and not violating the law, violated First Amendment Raised serious questions about.

The role of federal law enforcement officers in protests in Portland has been done by civil rights advocates and elected officials. On Thursday, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice said it would investigate the conduct of federal officials in the city.

The suit bringers claimed that federal officials shot at them with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and black pepper bullets and, sometimes without warning, after identifying themselves as members of the press in the baton. Hit with

The order, which will remain in effect for 14 days, requires federal authorities to “arrest, threaten arrest, or use physical force directed against anyone they know or reasonably should know.” Journalist or legal supervisor unless there is probable cause that person committed a crime.

Simon wrote, “Journalists and legal observers will not be required to issue an order to do so, and such persons will not be arrested for not making an arrest after issuing an order for arrest,” Simon wrote , Although he mentions that “be bound by all other laws.”

“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” ACLU’s interim executive director of Oregon, Jane Carson said in a statement. “Federal agents of Trump’s Department of Homeland Security and Justice are terrorizing the community, threatening life, and constantly attacking journalists and legal observers who protest, this is a tyrannical action, and They have no place in America. “

Matthew Borden, a partner at BraunHagey & Borden, who served as free counsel for the ACLU, said the order was a “significant safeguard for journalists and legal observers to record police activities on these important protests.” And were exercising their fundamental right to observe, and this is a victory for the country’s right to get a full account of these events. “

Representatives of DHS and Marshall Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Local concerns and a trump warp

Local authorities have raised complaints about the conduct of federal officials. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who joined the protests on Wednesday evening, was killed with tear gas outside a federal courtroom.

“What I saw last night was powerful in many ways,” Wheeler wrote in a post on Twitter on Thursday. “I heard about the protesters, heard and stood up. And I saw what it meant when the federal government united paramilitary forces against their own people.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is pursuing a separate lawsuit, seeking to prevent federal officials from removing protesters from sidewalks and throwing them in unmarked vans without identifying themselves as law enforcement.

President Donald Trump in a post on Twitter on Thursday morning called Wheeler the “Radical Left Mayor of Portland” who claimed Trump was “kicked out of existence and shouted at by agitators and anarchists. Pity Trumpers never shout ! “

Trump has thwarted the actions of protesters in Oregon and across the country after the May murder of George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis. The federal government has said in court papers that it has deployed more than 100 officers in Portland, and Trump has threatened to send agents to other cities led by liberal mayors where he claims protests stem from control Are out.

In court papers arguing against the temporary restraining order, Justice Department attorneys argued that the protests sparked criminal activity and gave officers improvised explosives, “commercial grade mortars,” lasers, and balloons and filled with paint The balloon was targeted with stool-like substances. “

He argued that enforcing the order would not be possible to enforce in practice and would “unfairly bind law enforcement’s hands, preventing them from taking appropriate action when individuals engage in criminal conduct.”

But Simon rejected that argument in his order, noting that the City of Portland itself supported the ACLU in the case.

“Although federal defendants ‘claim their right to disperse violent opportunists,’ there is no evidence that any journalist or legal observer – to any designated plaintiff – would harm federal property or federal authorities. Work violently with, “Simon wrote.

He said that the government had already admitted that he had no such evidence during oral arguments.

Simon wrote, “In fact, evidence before the court shows that journalists and legal observers are involved in protests as ‘keepers of public interest'”.

Presumed Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who faced Trump during the presidential election, has criticized the presence of federal officials in Portland.

“Of course the US government has the right and duty to protect federal property,” Biden said in a statement. “The Obama-Biden administration protected federal property across the country without resorting to these arrogant tactics – and without trying to ignite division fires in this country.”