December 16, 2016 - Since the outcome of the presidential election, our country and state have seen an escalation in incidents that threaten the safety and civil rights of minority students. Over the past several weeks, students of color have been subjected to bullying and harassment at school, students exercising their First Amendment rights to protest have been discouraged and threatened with discipline, undocumented students have been threatened with the possibility that their right to attend public school will be withdrawn, and LGBTQ students have been told they will no longer be accommodated and supported at school. We, like many of you, are disturbed and heartbroken to learn of the extent of the challenges these students now face just to make it through a school day intact. Some school staff and administrators have reached out to the ACLU of Oregon for assistance and resources.
In an effort to assist schools in confronting these challenges and providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, we are sending this advisory to all Oregon school district superintendents and sharing it here on our website. Our goals to inform students, parents, staff, administrators, and community members about the rights of students at school, to provide resources, and to ask that Oregon school districts take appropriate measures to protect the rights of your students. This letter addresses topics of bullying and harassment, the First Amendment, and the rights of students of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ students.
Due to possible policy changes under the Trump administration, we recommend that transgender and gender non-conforming people consider getting their identity documents in order before Inaugration Day 2017. And, we can help! Over 90 volunteer lawyers took our free training and are ready to help Oregonians throuh the process free of charge. (There are some court and filing fees associated, but the legal help is free.)
December 15, 2016 - UPDATE: Today, Multnomah County Circuit Court denied Olan Williams a new trial in his challenge of the non-unanimous jury verdict returned in his felony criminal case.
We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case challenging the law for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. While the court ultimately denied Williams’ request for a new trial, the ruling goes to great length to explain the racist past of Oregon’s history generally, as well as concluding that race and ethnicity were motivating factors in the passage of Oregon’s non-unanimous jury law and that “the measure was intended, at least in part, to dampen the influence of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities on Oregon juries.”
November 22, 2016 - Five years ago today, Governor John Kitzhaber issued a moratorium on carrying out executions of Oregon’s death row prisoners and called our death penalty a broken system. Governor Kate Brown has continued that moratorium. Both suggested that Oregonians needed to have a conversation about the morality and effectiveness of keeping a death penalty system. While the governor cannot get rid of the death penalty, only voters can do that, we suggest it is now time for the governor to commute all death row sentences.
New information regarding innocence, disability, and race has come to light that reinforces the widespread concern that Oregon’s death penalty system is broken:
Last night, we learned that Portland Police Bureau (“PPB”) arrested Gregory McKelvey, Kathryn Stevens, and Micah Rhodes, members of PDX Resistance and well-known organizers. Targeting individuals for arrest for constitutionally protected speech is prohibited by law.
PDX Resistance organizers were singled out for arrest despite engaging in activities similar to peaceful protesters in their vicinity. From our view, the only distinguishing characteristic is their role as leaders in other recent protests that were publicly opposed by your offices.
The ACLU of Oregon joins the calls urging those few who have been engaged in violence and vandalism during the protests to stop. However, we fully rebuke both your calls for the protests to end and your statement that protest cannot effect change in our democracy. American history, indeed world history, is full of stories of protest that opened the path to change.
Peaceful assembly and protest is at the heart of our democracy. It may not always be convenient or pretty, but we think it is powerful.