Order in ACLU Lawsuit Blocks Trump’s Militarized Agents from Attacking and Arresting Journalists and Legal Observers at Portland Protests


PORTLAND, Ore.U.S. District Judge Michael Simon today blocked federal agents in Portland from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or targeting force against journalists or legal observers at protests. The court’s order, which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, adds the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service to an existing injunction barring Portland police from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at Portland protests.

Under the court order, federal agents also cannot unlawfully 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.

“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Federal agents from Trump’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking journalists and legal observers documenting protests. These are the actions of a tyrant, and they have no place anywhere in America.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of legal observers and local journalists. Named plaintiffs include: 

  • The Portland Mercury (Index Newspapers LLC)
  • John Rudoff, a 72-year-old photojournalist who was shot on two separate occasions by federal agents
  • Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photographer who federal agents shot 10 times in the back (video)
  • Justin Yau, a freelance journalist who federal agents attacked with tear gas
  • Doug Brown, an ACLU of Oregon legal observer who federal agents tear-gassed and threatened to shoot 
  • Alex Milan Tracy, a photojournalist who was shot by federal agents on July 20 and then hit with a stun grenade by federal agents on July 22
  • Kat Mahoney, an ACLU of Oregon legal observer who was tear-gassed by federal agents

All individuals were wearing high-visibility shirts that said “PRESS” or vests that said “ACLU of Oregon Legal Observer” in large letters.

“This injunction is a critical protection for journalists and legal observers exercising their fundamental right to record and observe police activities at these important protests, and it’s a victory for the nation’s right to receive a full account of these events,” said Matthew Borden, pro bono counsel for the ACLU Foundation of Oregon and partner at BraunHagey & Borden LLP.

The ACLU of Oregon has also filed a lawsuit against DHS, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the city of Portland for attacking volunteer street medics. That case is currently pending before a federal court.

"The ACLU will hold federal and local law enforcement nationwide to account if they violate our constitutional rights,” said Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

The temporary restraining order is online here: https://aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/aclu_tro_against_federal_defendants.pdf

Court documents related to the order are online here: https://aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/aclu_or_dhs_tro_declarations_packet072020.pdf

Case files are online here: https://aclu-or.org/en/cases/woodstock-v-city-portland

This release is online here: https://aclu-or.org/en/press-releases/federal-court-issues-restraining-order-federal-agents-portland.