Oregon Anti-Bush Protesters Granted Class Status in ACLU Suit

prostesters in Jacksonville, OR

Jacksonville Protesters’ Case Moves Forward After a Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling

November 30, 2015 - A group of protesters in southern Oregon, who are suing local police for excessive force and unlawful arrest, have been granted class action status for some of the claims in their lawsuit. The protesters, who in 2004 were ordered to leave an area where then-president George W. Bush was having dinner in Jacksonville, Oregon, have fought for years to have their claims heard in court.

In October 2004, U.S. Secret Service agents directed state and local police in Jacksonville to move an anti-Bush picket line of more than 250 peaceful demonstrators while allowing a group of pro-Bush demonstrators to remain in the same area undisturbed. The police effort turned violent as the officers clad in riot gear used batons, "less-lethal" munitions, and chemical agents to move the multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators. The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service as well as state and local police agencies, and the individual agents and officers, seeking damages and an injunction against such governmental abuse in the future.

“The police took things too far when they pushed protesters and used pepper spray and batons on the group that included families with young children,”  said Steven Wilker, a lawyer with the Portland-based Tonkon Torp law firm who represents the protestors pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.

The protesters have yet to have their case heard in court because the Secret Service, claiming qualified immunity, moved to have the case against them dismissed.


Records Requests Filed Regarding DOJ Surveillance of Black Lives Matter

By Mat dos Santos, Legal Director 
Black Lives Matter protestorNovember 13, 2015 – Yesterday, the ACLU of Oregon filed records requests to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ), Oregon’s Titan Fusion Center, and the United States Department of Justice, including the FBI. We are seeking information regarding the extent of the DOJ's surveillance including questions about the technology that was used, what information was collected, and who was profiled by the department.

In an interview with OPB this week, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum confirmed that a DOJ investigator used an online, subscription-based tool called “Digital Stakeout.” The Digital Stakeout website touts its product as a threat intelligence platform and says users can “search by keyword, hashtag, location, meta-data and more.” Rosenblum revealed that in addition to searching for Black Lives Matter, other searches were performed, including searches for the hashtag, ‘F - the police.’

As these statements reveal, this was more than just a search of hashtags on the internet. We have some preliminary answers, but we also have many more questions. Why was a Black-led social movement used as a jumping-off point for ‘anti-police sentiment’? How did the investigation of the DOJ’s own Civil Rights Division director go so far? Who else was swept up in this dragnet?


Mobile Justice Oregon Gets an Update

Our police-recording app is now availble for iPhone and Android.

mobile justice imageNovember 13, 2015 – Our Mobile Justice app launched today for iPhone and was updated for Android. The free app allows users to record police encounters and upload it to the ACLU. The updated version of the app records both audio and video and also now saves a copy of the video to the user's device. 

Previously, an outdated Oregon law made it a crime to record audio without "specifically informing" the parties to the conversation. The “Right to Record” bill, HB 2704, Chief Sponsored in the 2015 legislative session by Representative Lew Frederick, clarified that the public has the right to record police doing their jobs, including audio. Over 1,700 Oregonians contacted their legislators in support of the bill through an ACLU “Action Alert” and it passed with bipartisan support. The bill was signed into law by the Governor in June.

Via the app, videos and reports are automatically uploaded to the ACLU, where every video is reviewed for evidence of police misconduct. Users can still receive alerts when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby.

Since the we first launched the app for Android phones last November, it has been downloaded over 4,600 times. We expect the number of downloads will climb now that it is available for iPhone users. 


Black Lives Matter Supporters in Oregon Targeted by State Surveillance

By David Rogers, Executive Director

BLM protestorNovember 10, 2015 — Today, it was revealed that the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice has secretly surveilled Oregonians who use the Black Lives Matter hashtag — including the state’s own director of civil rights, Erious Johnson. This is deeply disturbing and offensive — and it is a serious threat to our democracy. 

Surveilling people based on their political ideas undercuts the fundamental freedoms that our country was founded on. If people can be targeted for speech and activities protected by the First Amendment, then they will be reluctant to speak or write openly about their beliefs. And let’s not miss that this surveillance is targeting people who use  #BlackLivesMatter on social media throws open the door to racial profiling because the movement is Black-led.

We have serious questions for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:

How did this happen? At whose direction? How long has this been going on and how many Oregonians have been caught up in this likely illegal surveillance? How can we ensure that this will not happen again?

Political, racial or religious minorities cannot enjoy the equality and dignity afforded them by the Constitution when they are routinely subjected to discriminatory profiling and surveillance by the government.


Portland Public Schools Made the Right Decision When It Withdrew From Christmas Festival

The Grotto’s “Christmas Festival of Lights” was an inappropriate event for public school choirs

We commend the Portland Public Schools (PPS) decision to withdraw students from the “Christmas Festival of Lights.” It is a decision consistent with the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which mandates that the government neither promote nor inhibit a particular religion.

In the United States, we enjoy the freedom to practice any religion – or no religion at all. Our country's founders, who were of different religious backgrounds themselves, knew the best way to protect religious liberty was to keep the government out of religion. So they created the First Amendment - to guarantee the separation of church and state. Oregon’s state constitution requires this separation, as well.

A strong commitment to the separation of church and state is not anti-religion. In fact, it may be the best guarantee that each individual has the right to practice their own religion, without coercion, hostility or violence. In other words, keeping religion out of the hands of the government is the best way to ensure continued religious freedom and religious harmony.

The “Christmas Festival of Lights” is a celebration of Christianity in a Catholic shrine. It features religious music and imagery that is explicitly Christian, including a collection of nativity scenes and extensive fiber-optic displays focusing on the story of the birth of Christ. In addition, through a ten-dollar admission price, the event generates revenue for the Grotto, which is a religious institution.

Portland Public Schools, as a branch of Oregon’s government, must maintain a neutral position toward religion. When public school choir classes participate in events which endorse a particular religion, neutrality is lost. Because participation in the Christmas Festival of Lights would endorse Catholicism and Christianity, PPS properly decided to end its participation in the event.


Indigenous Peoples’ Day Must Be More Than Symbolic

By Legal Director Mat dos Santos

Today I’m especially proud to live in Portland, which is celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time. On Wednesday, October 8, 2015, through a unanimous vote by the city council, Portland abandoned Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Portland joins a handful of U.S. cities to make this change. While symbolic, this is an important shift in policy away from erasing Native tradition to celebrating it.

Native Americans throughout the U.S. routinely find themselves faced with an impossible choice: celebrate Native traditions in Native spaces or let Native traditions die while participating in majority culture. This forced choice is a legacy of genocide and ongoing social depredation perpetuated against indigenous people.

Today, this cultural annihilation is continued through innocuous institutional rules and regulations that may seem harmless, but which have a disparate impact on Native people and traditions. These rules and regulations discriminate against Native people because the needs of Natives were not considered in the policy making process. An example of such a rule can be found in Oregon’s institutions of higher education; not a single one allows Native students to practice traditional smudging rituals in their living spaces.