I am grateful for this opportunity to provide you a brief update on the ACLU’s work in Oregon at this critical time. Simply put: We are in a fight to save our democracy. Together we are fighting for a better America.
In the midst of the pandemic and economic crisis, we are in a collective distress, witnessing so many ways our systems and institutions are inequitable and devastating to the lives of so many Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and others who live in poverty.
The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and far too many Black people, by police, finally has shocked our consciousness. People across our country are rising up to say Black Lives Matter and we need to address systemic racism. And across the state, thousands of people are coming out to demand change, to support Black Lives Matter. Protests in Portland have been going on for more than 70 nights!
I am so proud that the ACLU of Oregon has a team of dedicated legal observers who are out there nearly every single night. But calls to end racist police brutality have been met with more police brutality in Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Springfield. It was an extremely cynical move for Donald Trump to send federal agents to Portland. These agents added escalation on top of existing police escalation.
This was not a strategy to bring law and order. The federal engagement was designed to create chaos and to advance Trump’s racist agenda. It has been an unconstitutional nightmare. And it has been terrifying to see such unbridled police power unleashed against teens, moms, dads, veterans, and others.
Night after night in Portland, our legal observers have documented large crowds of people lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights to demand an end to police brutality and racist policing being met with clouds of tear gas and other chemical weapons.
We have seen people shot directly in the head, causing skull fractures, and shot repeatedly in the back, causing large and painful contusions, and beaten with batons causing bones to break. People have been snatched off the streets into unmarked vehicles with no explanation.
These abusive tactics have been used by law enforcement to intimidate, control and devalue the lives of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities for far too long. These police tactics have no place in a free society and fly in the face of our country’s founding constitutional principles.
The ACLU of Oregon and others have filed several lawsuits to stop these attacks and hold law enforcement accountable
Don’t Shoot Portland, a Black women-led organization filed the first lawsuit to stop Portland police from tear gassing protesters. They also filed a lawsuit to stop federal agents from attacking protesters.
Separately, the ACLU of Oregon filed a lawsuit to prohibit both Portland police and the feds from the dispersal and use of force against journalists and legal observers. We need legal observers and journalists at these protests because, rather than protecting the right to dissent, our police have been attacking demonstrators.
We also sued on behalf of volunteer medics who provide aid to injured protesters and have been targeted and attacked by police and federal agents.
And we also sued Portland police to stop their livestream surveillance of protests, which leaves demonstrators vulnerable to facial recognition technology by the Feds.
Protest aims to disrupt. It has to be disruptive or change will not happen. History shows us that oppressive systems don’t change on their own.
The ACLU will continue to defend the rights of protesters against police brutality in Oregon, and across the country.
And just this week, the ACLU of Oregon filed another lawsuit against DHS on behalf of Isidro Andrade Tafolla, a Washington County worker and U.S. citizen, who was illegally detained by ICE agents outside the Washington County Courthouse in 2017.
At the national level, the ACLU called for the disbanding of the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump’s use of DHS as his personal militia should be enough to start a meaningful bipartisan debate about DHS’ future. Throughout the ACLU’s 100 year history, we have done important work to create changes to policing.
And as important as those reforms have been, our system of policing is broken. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Kendra James, Quanice Hayes and so many more Black lives ended.
It is time to think bigger. It is time to reimagine public safety. It is time to stop growing our policing budgets and to reinvest resources that help Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities thrive. The ACLU will support these efforts, too. And we will need you to stick with us in this work.
This summer our country lost a true American hero, Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Like so many Black activists before him, he believed in a better America; a more just and equitable America.
That America is worth believing in and fighting for. The ACLU is all in. I hope you are all in, too.
Join us online again on September 12 for our statewide membership conference with keynote Walidah Imarisha. Learn more and register on our website.
Thank you for your time, for your support. We will succeed if we do this together.