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Portland’s Protest Problem

The militarized and heavy-handed police approach to protest in Portland is expensive, dangerous, and threatens our democracy.

line of riot police in Portland on 1202017January 25, 2017 - In stark contrast to the policing of the Portland Women’s March the next day, which was by many accounts congenial and effective, the law enforcement response to the Inauguration Day protests was violent and excessive. Protesters, journalists, bystanders, and our own ACLU legal observers have shared disturbing reports and video that show the chilling presence of hundreds of officers in riot-gear, many of whom were only recently trained, directing the crowd with confusing, and at times contradictory, orders and force. Finally, in what is becoming an all too common occurrence, the protest was ended through the deployment of so-called “crowd control devices,” resulting not just in the silencing of First Amendment activities, but also causing serious injuries to the public. No matter what others have said, this was a failure. 

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Letter to Mayor Hales and Chief Marshman Regarding the Arrest of PDX Resistance Organizers During Peaceful Protest

November 22, 2016

Dear Mayor Hales and Chief Marshman,

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.

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An Open Letter to Mayor Hales Regarding Free Speech

free speech sign behind a fenceNovember 14, 2016

Dear Mayor Hales,

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.

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Internal DOJ Report Leaves Us with More Questions than Answers on the Surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon

By David Rogers, Executive Director

David Rogers photoApril 12, 2016 - Yesterday a report on the surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon was released by the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). The report confirmed what we learned back in November: that an agent who works for the Criminal Division of DOJ was testing a surveillance program, called Digital Stakeout, by searching various key words, including #BlackLivesMatter. The agent then mistook posts from DOJ’s own Director of Civil Rights, including a post of a Public Enemy logo and political cartoons, as a threat to law enforcement and wrote a memo that was passed all the way up the chain of command to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum before it was, finally, rejected as dangerous, racial profiling. The Attorney General hired an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation of the matter to determine if policies or laws were violated.

After reading through the report and looking through the exhibits, we are left with more questions than answers. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the lack of awareness that was revealed of both the law and of what might constitute a threat. This is not only shameful, but also dangerous. Given the power that they wield, I am dismayed at the state of the Criminal Justice Division and afraid for the Oregonians that are supposed to be protected by them. Self-reinforced bias, against protesters, black people, and who knows who else, has left the agency ill-equipped to do their job.

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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?

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Letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Regarding Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter

November 10, 2015

Attorney General Rosenblum:

We, the undersigned, have been notified that the Oregon Department of Justice has conducted digital surveillance on Oregonians because of their use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media.

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ACLU Launches Police Watch App in Oregon

“Mobile Justice” app allows Oregonians to record video of police encounters, includes guide to rights
November 6, 2014 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon today announced the release of a smartphone application that will allow users to take video of police encounters and quickly upload the video to the ACLU. It can also send an alert when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby and provides helpful legal information about interacting with police.

“Police officers have a unique role and position within our society and they are given extraordinary powers,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Oregonians have the right to record video of police in public places as a check to those powers.”

Fidanque said that the app, known as “Mobile Justice,” is also being launched simultaneously by ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska.  He said it is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. 

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The Freedom to Read

By Barbara Gordon-Lickey

Most people understand that the First Amendment gives them a right to speak on any subject, free from censorship by government officials. Probably fewer people realize that the U.S. Constitution implicitly grants the freedom to read what they choose and protects their right to read in privacy.

The First Amendment protection of freedom of speech is meaningless if you cannot gather information on subjects that you want to speak about; that is, the First Amendment requires that reading materials not be censored. The right to read also requires that you do not suffer repercussions as a result of your reading choices; therefore, your choices must be private. This privacy right is also protected by the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and specifically states that “papers” must be protected. In the computer era of downloads, a search of your reading choices is equivalent to a search of your papers.

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Local Authors Celebrate Free Speech during Banned Books Week

September 30, 2012 - Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read, freedom from censorship, and the importance of the First Amendment. The ACLU began defending banned books with James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1933. One would hope that banning books is a relic of the past, but sadly it isn’t. Every year there are challenges to books in schools and libraries across the United States – even here in Oregon.   Oregon reads banned books

To help all Oregonians get into the spirit of Banned Books Week we distributed 15,000 “I read banned books” buttons to libraries and bookstores across the state, posted a list of book challenges, and enlisted the help of some of our favorite local authors! Jean Auel (The Clan of the Cave Bear) recorded a PSA on the importance of the freedom to read. Also, authors Phillip Margolin, April Henry, Vanessa Veselka, and zinester Sarah Royal will raise their voices in support of the freedom to read at our annual Banned Books Reading at Powell’s City of Books in Portland on Sunday, Oct 7 at 7:30 p.m. (FREE)  

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ACLU Joins Network of Advocates Calling for Release of May Day Activist

May 3, 2012 - Ricardo Valera was arrested at Portland’s May Day March on Tuesday while peaceably exercising his First Amendment rights. All of Ricardo’s criminal charges have been dropped, yet today he remains in Multnomah County Jail where the Sheriff continues to hold him at the request of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

This afternoon the ACLU signed on to a letter with other members of the ACT Network for Justice and Dignity, calling for the Sheriff to immediately release Ricardo. The ACT Network is a collection of individuals and organizations who advocate for an end to collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement. Referencing a recent Resolution passed by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners that expressed great concern for the devastating effect on families and on our community of ICE policies, today’s letter to the Sheriff urged him to follow the lead of the Commissioners by refusing to do ICE’s dirty work.

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The Pledge of Allegiance in Oregon Public Schools

Many public schools in the United States ask students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Some students object to the practice for reasons of conscience. Both the Oregon Legislature and the courts have developed a common-sense solution to the conflict: a school may lead students in reciting the Pledge, but it must also respect the wishes of students who choose not to join in.

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ACLU Celebrates Reopening of Schrunk Plaza and Bill of Rights Day

The ACLU of Oregon will celebrate the reopening of Terry Schrunk Plaza and Bill of Rights Day on Thursday, December 15th at noon in the amphitheater at Shrunk Plaza with readings of the Bill of Rights.

Federally owned Terry Schrunk Plaza had been closed since November 13, when Portland police evicted Occupy Portland demonstrators from nearby Chapman and Lownsdale parks. The City has stated that Chapman and Lownsdale need to remain closed to allow time for repairs, but Terry Schrunk Plaza had not been damaged yet remained closed.

The plaza’s amphitheater, which was designed to accommodate public gatherings and foster public discourse, had been the site of the General Assembly meetings for Occupy Portland. Last week, the ACLU of Oregon filed for a permit to hold a reading of the Bill of Rights at the Plaza, in part to encourage the federal General Services Administration to remove the fences and reopen what has been a traditional public forum. The ACLU’s permit was granted on Monday and the fences came down the same day.

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Your Right to Protest

right to protest shirtYou have a constitutionally protected right to engage in peaceful protest in “traditional public forums” such as streets, sidewalks or parks. But in some cases the government can impose restrictions on this kind of activity by requiring permits. This is constitutional as long as the permit requirements are reasonable, and treat all groups the same no matter what the focus of the rally or protest.

The government cannot impose permit restrictions or deny a permit simply because it does not like the message of a certain speaker or group.

Generally, you have the right to distribute literature, hold signs, collect petition signatures, and engage in other similar activities while on public sidewalks or in front of government buildings as long as you are not disrupting other people, forcing passerby to accept leaflets or causing traffic problems.

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Celebrate Banned Books Week, September 24 - October 1, 2011

Every year there are hundreds of challenges to books in schools and libraries in Oregon and across the United States. Banned Books Week, held annually during the last week of September, celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Meant to highlight the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship, the ACLU of Oregon celebrates this important occasion by hosting events, distributing “I read banned books” buttons to libraries and bookstores, and by publishing a list of books challenged in Oregon.

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ACLU Testifies Against Portland's Latest "Sit/Lie" Ordinance

April 29, 2010 -- Today the ACLU of Oregon testified before Portland City Council raising concerns about the latest proposed "sit/lie" ordinance. 

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Evaluating hate speech codes - Editorial in the Lewis & Clark Pioneer Log

hate speechEvaluating Hate Speech Codes

By Sanne Steinstra

Published in the Lewis & Clark Pioneer Log October 2009

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ACLU of Oregon Receives National Award

July 27, 2009 -- ACLU of Oregon, as part of the Celebrate the Freedom to Read Coalition, received the SIRS-Proquest State and Regional Achievement Award from the Intellectual Freedom Round Table of

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Banned Books Week

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event started by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1982.

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Your Right to Free Expression

What does freedom of expression really mean?

The First Amendment guarantees our right to free expression and free association, which means that the government does not have the right to forbid us from saying what we like and writing what we like; we can form clubs and organizations, and take part in demonstrations and rallies.

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Endangered Books

Some people don’t want you to read these books. Why not check one out and decide for yourself?

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State v. Hund

Faces of Liberty: The Right to Protest

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Bright v. City of Cascade Locks

Faces of Liberty: Free Speech Challenged in Cascade Locks

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Barcik, Kasten, et al. v. Tigard-Tualatin School District 23J

Faces of Liberty: Students Fight Against Censorship of School Newspaper

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Portland’s 2006 Sit/Lie Ordinance: Process Abandoned at 11th Hour?

April 2007 - The ACLU explains why, despite six months of hard work in the mayor’s SAFE workgroup, it came out against the proposed ordinance

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