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ACLU Sues Portland Police To Block Them Videotaping Protesters
Portland Police
Alisha Jucevic/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon sued the Portland Police Bureau, trying to block them from livestreaming protests.

The ACLU claimed in their lawsuit, “By livestreaming videos of protesters, PPB collects or maintains information about their political or social views, associations and activities.”

“Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law for PPB’s violations, which pose a serious and imminent threat of irreparable harm to them and other protesters alike,” the lawsuit continues. “Specifically, PPB cannot ‘undo’ a video through which its officers identify or otherwise collect information about a protester.  Nor can it force a third party to ‘un-learn” information about a protester that the third party obtains by watching PPB’s live stream.  Moreover, any damages associated with such conduct by PPB would be, by their very nature, extremely difficult or impossible to quantify.”

“The livestream has been one of dozens of livestreams of nightly demonstrations in Portland. The Police Bureau put a link to its livestream on its Twitter feed three times this month,” Oregon Live reported, adding, “Portland police and federal officers have made arrests after reviewing video footage to identify people accused of committing violence or property damage.”

“Many of the other protesters whose likenesses and voices have appeared on PPB’s videos also want not to be recorded,” the lawsuit states. “Several have shouted as much at PPB’s cameraperson; others have shone bright lights at its camera in attempts to obscure the camera’s view of the crowds; still others have used squeakers to obscure PPB’s audio recording.”

The lawsuit claims the PPB violated Oregon law ORS 181a.250, which states:

No law enforcement agency, as defined in ORS 181A.010 (Definitions for ORS 181A.010 to 181A.350), may collect or maintain information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.

“Unlawful police surveillance threatens our First Amendment rights,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “The Portland Police Bureau has no constitutional reason to train its video cameras on demonstrators — or to broadcast those images publicly on the internet, where federal agents and others can analyze them.”

On Thursday, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler slammed the Portland police, claiming they had used excessive tear gas and apologizing for them. He stated, “There were times early on in these demonstrations where I believe I saw the Portland Police Bureau make mistakes when it came to crowd dispersal. I saw what appeared to be and what was reported from the streets to be indiscriminate use of crowd control devices … I apologize to those nonviolent demonstrators who were subjected to the use of CS gas or LRAD. It should never have happened. I take personal responsibility for it and I’m sorry.”

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