Judge Bars Feds From Using Force Against OR Journalists

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A federal judge temporarily barred federal officers from using force, threats, and dispersal orders against journalists or legal observers documenting daily demonstrations in downtown Portland, The Oregonian reports. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon quoted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which said, “When wrongdoing is underway, officials have great incentive to blindfold the eyes of the Fourth Estate. The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the judiciary is the guardian of the press.” Matthew Borden of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon urged the judge to “stop the federal agents’ occupation of Portland” and submitted statements from journalists, photojournalists, and legal observers who have suffered shots to the back, neck, and legs from impact munitions fired by federal officers outside the federal courthouse in the last month. “These are not accidents. These are not inadvertent shots,” Borden said. “These are acts of intimidation by a tyrant and they have no place in the city of Portland and they have no place in this country.‘’

Simon said individual federal officers or supervisors could be held liable if they intentionally disregard his ruling. The judge wrote that any “willful violation” of his order will be considered a violation of “a clearly established constitutional right” and won’t shield the officer through the legal doctrine of qualified immunity. Justice Department attorney Andrew Warden argued that it is too difficult for federal officers to distinguish peaceful demonstrators from violent ones. He said federal officers must make split-second decisions and are wearing masks, helmets, and other face-coverings. They can’t stop to determine who’s a member of the press or a legal observer when fireworks are being thrown at them and lasers shined in their eyes and everyone before them has their cellphone out filming their actions,” he said.

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