Court ruling in ACLU trial concludes police videos amounted to illegal surveillance during protests
A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge ruled on Monday, September 20 that the filming and live streaming by Portland police officers during protest events in 2020 violated Oregon law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a complaint on July 29, 2020 against the City of Portland for the Portland Police Department’s practice of live-streaming footage of protesters for internal use and in feeds intended for the public. Earlier this week, a judge found that the practice violated state law and a 1988 agreement between the Oregon ACLU and the Portland Police Department that said the office will “not” collect or retain information about the political, religious or social opinions, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, company, business or partnership, unless such information is directly related to an investigation of criminal activities and that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the subject of the information is or is involved in criminal conduct.
The video broadcast was cut short last year, when the court issued a temporary restraining order against the police station.
As Pamplin Media Group reported when filing the complaint, the city did not archive videos captured during the protests, but the video footage meant federal law enforcement agencies could, leaving demonstrators under the surveillance of federal law enforcement agencies.
“PPB has proposed various justifications for the live broadcast of videos of demonstrators,” says the ACLU lawsuit. “His policies say he is doing so to provide ‘situational awareness’ and to record possible criminal activity. … However, in a separate email, a senior deputy attorney general wrote that PPB had live-broadcast a video so as not to provide “situational awareness”, but rather “so that the community can understand what was going on during the protest”.
When filing its complaint in 2020, the ACLU said existing Oregon law that prohibits law enforcement from “spying” on residents is an important safeguard against police abuse of power.
Marie Tyvoll is a plaintiff in the case, identified in the legal file only as “protester # 1”. Tyvoll said police broadcasts put protesters at risk.
“When I showed up to support Black Lives at a protest, I didn’t expect the police to invest so much time, money and energy to broadcast my face on the internet,” Tyvoll said. . “Opposing injustice is important to me; having my own government is deliberately putting me in jeopardy for the dissemination of my location and political position – known as “doxxing” – is unbelievable. At a time when extremists and hate groups violently attack activists, I am grateful that the court has seen how harmful this practice is and has chosen to end it permanently. ”
Kelly Simon, legal director of the ACLU Oregon Foundation, said Judge Thomas Ryan’s ruling solidifies the right of Oregonians to protest without fear of government oversight.
“We are delighted that Justice Ryan is willing to apply Oregon law in a sensible way to protect our right to protest without fear of government oversight or government-backed doxing. This should be a warning to all law enforcement agencies. law enforcement that police do not have to film., photographing or collecting information about protesters. Protest is fundamental to democracy. Protest is not a crime. Full stop . ”
The Portland city attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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