Judge Bans Feds From Arresting Portland Observers

Move protects journalists for 14 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2020 4:11 AM CDT
Judge Bans Feds From Arresting Portland Observers
Protesters walk through chemical irritants dispersed by federal agents at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Portland, Ore.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A federal judge specifically blocked US agents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at the ongoing Portland, Oregon, protests that have sparked confrontations between local officials and President Trump over the limits of federal power. US Judge Michael Simon made his ruling late Thursday, a day after Portland's mayor was tear-gassed by federal agents as he made an appearance outside a federal courthouse during raucous demonstrations. Protesters have gathered in Oregon's largest city for nearly two months straight since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the AP reports. A large crowd of demonstrators were out again Thursday night, chanting and holding signs near the federal courthouse.

Simon had previously ruled that journalists and legal observers are exempt from police orders requiring protesters to disperse once an unlawful assembly has been declared. Federal lawyers intervened, saying journalists should have to leave when ordered. "This order is a victory for the rule of law," Jann Carson, ACLU of Oregon’s interim executive director, said in a statement. The judge said objections by law enforcement were outweighed by First Amendment concerns. "None of the government’s proffered interests outweigh the public’s interest in accurate and timely information about how law enforcement is treating" protesters, he wrote. Simon's order is in effect for 14 days. Journalists and observers must wear clear identification, he said.

(More Portland, Oregon stories.)

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