Media Contact

August 20, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon today issued a preliminary injunction barring agents with the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or assaulting journalists or legal observers documenting the Portland protests against racist police brutality. He also required federal agents deployed in Portland to wear prominent markings “so that they can be identified at a reasonable distance.”

“If military and law enforcement personnel can engage around the world without attacking journalists, the federal defendants can respect plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights in Portland, Oregon,” Judge Simon stated in his order.  

Today’s order came in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Oregon on behalf of journalists and legal observers.

“This decision keeps in place important protections for our clients while we continue to hold the Trump administration accountable for the multitude of abuses it brought to Oregon,” said ACLU of Oregon Interim Legal Director Kelly Simon. “Oregon will continue to show the Trump administration that we will not be political pawns. And the ACLU will continue to ensure our constitutional rights are defended against lawless federal actions.” 

The order found that the federal agents sent to Portland by the Trump administration have chilled the First Amendment rights of journalists and legal observers by targeting them for attack or arrest, and that the government cannot prevent journalists and legal observers from documenting the violence that the federal agents are using on the public.  

“This is a crucial victory for civil liberties and freedom of the press,” said ACLU of Oregon cooperating attorney Matthew Borden, partner at BraunHagey & Borden LLP. “Having a free press is critical to the functioning of our democracy. The court’s order affirms that the government cannot use violence to control the narrative about what is happening at these historic protests.”

The ACLU has also asked the court to sanction and hold in contempt federal agents for willfully violating the temporary restraining order previously in place to block agents from attacking or arresting journalists and legal observers. While the court has not yet ruled on the motion for contempt and sanctions, it did raise in today’s ruling “serious concerns that the federal defendants have not fully complied with the court’s original TRO.”

The court has already banned local police from attacks on and dispersal of the press and legal observers. The ACLU of Oregon also filed suit against federal and local law enforcement for brutally attacking medics providing aid at the protests.

The preliminary injunction is online here:

Case files are online here:

Media may use these photographs of federal agents in downtown Portland, taken between July 5 and July 29,  with attribution to “Doug Brown, ACLU of Oregon”: