March 2017

Terrorism and the First Amendment

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

lone protesters faces line of police in PortlandMarch 7, 2017 - The United States government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008. Mandela was a designated terrorist eighteen years after he was released from prison; fifteen years after he won the Nobel peace prize; and, fourteen years after he was elected President of South Africa.

Let that sink in for a moment.

In 1962, the US government considered Mandela to be “the most dangerous communist” outside of the then Soviet Union. It was subsequently revealed that a CIA agent provided the South African government with the information necessary to apprehend him and land him in prison for twenty-seven years.

The indignity suffered by Mandela during every visit to the United States—as a “terrorist” he had to get special clearance to enter the country—was finally wiped clean by an act of Congress just five years before he died. 

Nelson Mandela, and his organizing in South Africa, was not protected by the First Amendment, a freedom afforded by the U.S Constitution only to those in the United States. But we should not forget that Angela Davis, Malcom X, and yes, even the now-beloved Martin Luther King Jr. were at varying times labeled enemies of the state during their struggle against segregation in the United States. The First Amendment protected their organizing. But it did not stop our federal law enforcement agencies from watching, labeling, and arresting them. We are fortunate that these heroes of racial justice did not cower when faced with jail time, but instead spoke louder.

Late last week, we learned that people in Portland organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security. Why? Because the Portland Police Bureau labeled the November 10, 2016 protest a “riot.” 

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Poll: Oregonians strongly support reducing drug sentences

March 1, 2017 — Oregon voters overwhelmingly support a proposal to reduce penalties for drug possession, according to a new poll.

The poll comes as a new bill, Oregon HB 2355, supported by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon,) would change small-scale drug possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

“The war on drugs has failed,” said David Rogers, the executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “It has damaged families and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. A felony conviction for small-scale drug use is too harsh because it ruins people’s lives. Oregonians are ready for a smarter approach. This bill is our chance to win one, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it passes.” 



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