ACLU Challenges Use of Disorderly Conduct Law Against Protester

rights of protesters imageApril 18, 2016 - Attorneys on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a friend of the court brief in the trial of Teressa Raiford in support of her free speech rights. In August 2015, Teressa Raiford was arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest in Portland that marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown. The brief urges the court to consider the legislative intent behind the disorderly conduct statute. 

It is clear that the Oregon legislature intended to protect civil liberties when they limited the scope of the disorderly conduct law. The “disorderly conduct” forbidden by the law requires making a public way effectively impassable. To violate the law, a person must have caused substantial disturbances amounting to a “breach of the peace”—not merely stepping off the curb into a bike lane, as in this case. 

The ACLU of Oregon has long defended the constitutionally protected right to engage in peaceful protest in “traditional public forums” such as streets, sidewalks or parks. 

We are not representing Ms. Raiford; she has a lawyer representing her in this case. Our brief, also known as an amicus brief, provides the court with additional information about the history of the law within the context of the rights of protesters. Chris Swift and Alan Galloway of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP worked on the brief on behalf of the ACLU Foundation of Oregon.