Today, the ACLU of Oregon, the National Lawyers Guild Portland Chapter, and Oregon Lawyers for Good Government sent a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expressing deep concern over the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) response to the permitted march on May Day.
Our organizations advocate for peaceful protest and call for an end to violence from protesters and PPB alike.
PPB’s response to the May Day protest was disproportionate and dangerous. First-hand accounts from our legal observers and march organizers make it clear that there was very little violence or property destruction prior to the cancellation of the permit. Instead of handling the limited and isolated incidents appropriately, PPB created chaos by canceling a permitted march in progress without communicating to the participants, many of whom were families, children, and people with mobility issues.
Crowd-control tactics like flashbang grenades and chemical munitions that should be used only as a last resort, now seem to be the regular course of action by the PPB in response to First Amendment activities in Portland. This creates unnecessary public safety risks and puts our First Amendment rights in jeopardy, while also serving to fan the flames of division and embolden those who seek to use protests, rallies, or marches as the platform for vandalism.
Earlier this year, we submitted comments to PPB’s crowd control policy. Adoption and implementation of this policy as we submitted it would move the city in the right direction. It is clear that PPB needs a change in culture as well as a change in policy. We call on the Mayor to keep his promise to demilitarize Portland’s police force and adopt a city policy that focuses on de-escalation, clear communication, and protecting First Amendment rights.