Court Orders Protection for Journalists Covering Oregon Protests

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a temporary restraining order blocking police from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers at protests. 

“We are very pleased that the court granted some relief prior to the long holiday weekend,” said Matthew Borden, partner at BraunHagey & Borden LLP. “We hope that this creates a needed shield for members of the press and legal observers documenting how police are treating protesters.” 

The court order said journalists may be identified by carrying a press pass, press badge, or distinctive clothing that identifies the wearer as a member of the press. Legal observers included in the order can be identified by their green National Lawyers Guild hats or blue ACLU of Oregon vests.  

“In this moment when the community is demanding the dismantling of oppressive systems like policing, legal observers and journalists are an important part of this truth and reckoning,” said Juan Chavez, Northwest Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild. “We’re grateful that the court has appreciated this grave threat against the rights of people in the streets.” 

Police also may not seize any photographic equipment, audio- or video-recording equipment, or press passes from journalists and legal observers, or order journalists or legal observers to stop photographing, recording, or observing a protest. 

“We are hopeful this order gets police in Portland one step closer to respecting the Constitution instead of violently suppressing those documenting them abusing it, said Kelly Simon, interim legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. “Police need to know that everybody is watching.” 

Ian McCurley, law student at Lewis & Clark Law School, has been coordinating National Lawyers Guild legal observers in Portland since the protests began. “The legal observer’s ability to document police violence is an important first step towards holding the police accountable. The repeated attempts by police to prevent recording and intimidate legal observers make it clear they understand that.” 

The class action lawsuit was filed by the ACLU Foundation of Oregon and BraunHagey & Borden LLP Sunday against the City of Portland and Portland law enforcement on behalf of journalists and legal observers who were targeted and attacked by the police while documenting protests in Portland over the killing of George Floyd.  

Attorneys on the case include Matthew Borden, Athul Acharya, and Gunnar Martz of BraunHagey & Borden LLP; and Kelly Simon of the ACLU Foundation of Oregon.  

The temporary restraining order is online here. 

The complaint is online here. 

Full case files are online here.