Defelonize Drug Possession - HB 2355

The War on Drugs has failed. We have a chance right now to take a smarter approach in Oregon, by passing HB 2355, to defelonize small-scale drug possession. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Oregon sheriffs THANK YOU for supporting HB 2355 for a smarter approach to drug possession in Oregon!

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Terrorism and the First Amendment

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

lone protesters faces line of police in PortlandMarch 7, 2017 - The United States government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008. Mandela was a designated terrorist eighteen years after he was released from prison; fifteen years after he won the Nobel peace prize; and, fourteen years after he was elected President of South Africa.

Let that sink in for a moment.

In 1962, the US government considered Mandela to be “the most dangerous communist” outside of the then Soviet Union. It was subsequently revealed that a CIA agent provided the South African government with the information necessary to apprehend him and land him in prison for twenty-seven years.

The indignity suffered by Mandela during every visit to the United States—as a “terrorist” he had to get special clearance to enter the country—was finally wiped clean by an act of Congress just five years before he died. 

Nelson Mandela, and his organizing in South Africa, was not protected by the First Amendment, a freedom afforded by the U.S Constitution only to those in the United States. But we should not forget that Angela Davis, Malcom X, and yes, even the now-beloved Martin Luther King Jr. were at varying times labeled enemies of the state during their struggle against segregation in the United States. The First Amendment protected their organizing. But it did not stop our federal law enforcement agencies from watching, labeling, and arresting them. We are fortunate that these heroes of racial justice did not cower when faced with jail time, but instead spoke louder.

Late last week, we learned that people in Portland organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security. Why? Because the Portland Police Bureau labeled the November 10, 2016 protest a “riot.” 

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Information on ICE Raids in Oregon

Lea en Español: Información sobre las redadas de ICE en Oregon

March 2, 2017 - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, confirmed that they conducted a raid in Woodburn, a predominantly Latino town in Oregon. Of the people detained, at least four had no criminal record. ICE officials claimed they were looking for someone in particular when they stopped two vans of forest workers, but we should be very skeptical. This is a flimsy excuse for violating constitutional rights.

The Constitution guarantees core basic rights to every person in the United States. This applies during ICE enforcement actions. Immigration raids frequently violate the Constitution. For example, ICE agents engage in prohibited behavior when they selectively target predominantly Latino neighborhoods and work sites; enter people’s homes without proper warrants or consent; or coerce frightened individuals to submit to interrogations about their citizenship and immigration status.

The Constitution ensures equal protection and fair treatment under the law to all people, regardless of their skin color or accent. Looking or sounding “foreign” is not enough to justify seizing a person for immigration investigation.

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Poll: Oregonians strongly support reducing drug sentences

March 1, 2017 — Oregon voters overwhelmingly support a proposal to reduce penalties for drug possession, according to a new poll.

The poll comes as a new bill, Oregon HB 2355, supported by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon,) would change small-scale drug possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

“The war on drugs has failed,” said David Rogers, the executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “It has damaged families and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. A felony conviction for small-scale drug use is too harsh because it ruins people’s lives. Oregonians are ready for a smarter approach. This bill is our chance to win one, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it passes.” 



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ACLU Files Court Brief in Support of Quashing Reporter Subpoena in Oregon Standoff Trial

February 22, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief today in support of the media’s right to be free from compelled testimony. The civil liberties group’s court filing outlined robust support for reporter John Sepulvado and Oregon Public Broadcasting in their attempt to quash a government subpoena to compel Sepulvado to testify as a witness in the government’s trial against the remaining Malheur Refuge occupiers, U.S. v. Patrick. 

Charlie Hinkle, retired partner at Stoel Rives LLP and ACLU of Oregon cooperating attorney, had this comment:

“In a time when the news media are coming under increasing attack, it is more important than ever that the courts protect the independence of the media. Requiring journalists to function as an arm of the government in prosecuting crime threatens the independence of the media and inhibits their ability to gather the news.”

Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon legal director, had this comment:

“When reporters are called into the courtroom against their will, it is a threat to the First Amendment. The freedom of the press plays a critical role in holding government and public institutions accountable, and in the free flow of information and ideas.” 

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ACLU Calls on Portland Police to Improve Policies Related to Protests

Portland’s crowd control policy leads to escalations of conflict

February 15, 2017 - The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) sent a letter to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) urging them to revise their policy related to crowd management and crowd control (Directive 635.10) in order to improve police interactions with peaceful protests. The group says PPB’s current policy has serious flaws and that additional clashes between protesters and police appear inevitable if the policy remains unchanged. 

“Portland’s protest policy should emphasize restraint, de-escalation, and the use of force only as a last resort to ensure public health, safety, and welfare,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. 

The ACLU of Oregon is concerned that the current policy conflates threats to public safety with constitutionally protected activity that may be perceived as disruptive or disorderly. Furthermore, the group urged new thinking around the use of riot gear and crowd control weapons and tactics.

“Current social science shows that the use of militarized police or police dressed in “hard gear” leads to escalation of conflict, not de-escalation,” said Katherine McDowell, vice president for legal affairs at the ACLU of Oregon. “Many of the Portland Police Bureau’s crowd control weapons and tactics pose significant and irreparable health consequences and should be employed only in very limited circumstances.”  

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