ACLU Oregon alleges federal law enforcement unlawfully attacked reporters, violated restraining order
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a motion Tuesday, July 28, to hold federal agencies in contempt of court for allegedly violating a temporary restraining order blocking law enforcement from attacking journalists and legal observers documenting the protests in Portland.
ACLU Oregon blocked the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service from unlawfully arresting or using physical force against reporters and legal observers on July 23. But they violated the order within hours, ACLU Oregon alleges in court documents.
"As a result of the federal agents' defiance of the Court's order, the free press remains unsafe while trying to document and observe the cataclysmic violence that federal authorities are inflicting on Portland," the motion states.
The motion includes several instances of federal agents allegedly shooting and tear-gassing reporters and legal observers, including a reporter who already was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The complaint includes video and photo evidence to back up the accounts.
"I was clearly marked as a member of the press and was standing by myself," Kathryn Elsesser, a freelance photographer who was on assignment for Agence France-Presse when federal agents allegedly shot her on July 25, said in a press release from the ACLU. "Suddenly, without warning or reason, I felt a hard, searing, burning pain in the back of my arm. A federal agent had shot me from across the street with some type of bullet. I met multiple other photojournalists that night who were similarly attacked despite being clearly labeled as press."
Portland Tribune photographer Jonathan House has been shot twice by federal authorities; once in the upper arm, once when a rubber bullet hit his helmet.
The ACLU Oregon requested in the motion that federal agents who violated the restraining order be identified and barred from "engaging in armed operations" at the Portland protests. It also asked that the federal agents' commanders, including Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, personally appear and show why they should not be held in contempt.
The motion additionally requests fines and other restrictions to prevent federal law enforcement from continuing to violate the restraining order.
The suit is one of many that the ACLU and others have filed in state and federal courts. The ACLU received a temporary restraining order against the Portland Police Bureau for the same tactics that federal law enforcement is allegedly continuing to use despite the order.
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