The right to dissent is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and it was the major issue upon which the ACLU was founded more than 100 years ago. We will never give up fighting for that right. 

On Monday, we once again submitted comments to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) about its crowd control policies, known as Directive 0635.10. As we’ve done before in the City’s public comment period, we're demanding major changes to how the PPB polices protests.

Simply put: the PPB needs to demilitarize and de-escalate its crowd control response. Now.

The Bureau typically ignores or resists our requests, be we will continue to demand a safer and constitutionally-sound response to protest in Portland. Over the years, we have tried to engage leaders, we’ve submitted formal comments and testimony, worked with the city auditor’s Independent Police Review, and we’ve taken the City and PPB to court many times.

In fact, we currently have three active cases, including a class action lawsuit, against the PPB for violating the rights of protesters and using excessive force. But still, from the top down, the police refuse to change and they continue to brutalize protesters and other members of the public for no justifiable reason. 

Our current system – the web of institutions, contracts, laws, relationships, directives, and policies – works to shield law enforcement from any accountability when they harm members of the public, particularly people of color. This is by design.

These systems were created to entrench the white power system that violently founded this nation and that we still see today. This must change and we won’t stop until it does.

Being a white woman has taught me that my power is maintained until I yield it. The police, an institution designed to violently protect white supremacy in this country, need to yield. 

The ACLU of Oregon is still learning how to use and yield our power in ways that empower the people, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and disempower the institutions that serve and maintain white supremacy.

We, too, must change. Knowing this, the ACLU of Oregon submitted comments on the PPB’s crowd control directive with the commitment to keep learning, and the caveat that we will be demanding more – and maybe different – things as we do. 

But in the short term, we once again offer Portland police basic policy changes they can implement immediately to start respecting our community’s rights and keep people safe.

We demand the PPB:

  • Refrain from being present at protests when there is not a clear and present danger to public safety
  • Clarify that persons engaged in passive resistance (nonviolent, noncooperation) are not a civil disturbance or unlawful assembly
  • Prohibit use of force against or arrest of persons engaged in passive resistance
  • Prohibit dispersal of crowds that are not a civil disturbance
  • Remove the vague phrase “unlawful assembly” to reduce the unfettered discretion of law enforcement to push protest crowds around the city 
  • Stop using tear gas and other “less-lethal” and/or military-grade weapons like stinger ball grenades and flash bangs
  • Prohibit “kettling” or mass arrests and require individualized suspicion or probable cause in order to detain or arrest a person engaged in criminal activity
  • Clarify the definition of “riot” to be consistent with case law, which requires there be clear and present danger to public safety
  • Require any live video feeds of events be simultaneously made available to the public 
  • Require ample time and channels for safe dispersal
  • Emphasize maintenance of peace and de-escalation 

To the Portland Police Bureau: We won’t back down or back off until all Oregonians are safe from you. We urge you to do the right thing and yield. Otherwise we will see you in court. Again.