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Judge orders police to stop videotaping Portland protesters following ACLU lawsuit

A judge in Oregon issued an order Thursday temporarily restraining Portland police from videotaping protesters in periodic livestreams while a court case on the matter plays out.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau a day earlier claiming that its practice of livestreaming protests in the city violates state law.

According to the Oregonian, Portland police have produced dozens of livestreams in recent weeks in apparent attempt to show the public what it is that police are confronting on a nightly basis. But the ACLU contends the livestreams subject Americans who are simply practicing their First Amendment rights to unlawful surveillance.

With the new order, Multnomah County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Stephen Bushong agreed with the civil rights agency, at least for now. The order blocks police from “collecting or maintaining audio or video of protesters demonstrating public spaces, except where the video or audio relates to an investigation of criminal activities.”

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The ACLU argued in its lawsuit that “by livestreaming videos of protesters, PPB collects or maintains information about their political or social views, associations and activities in violation of Oregon law ORS 181a.250.”

That law 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.

“We appreciate Judge Bushong’s order,” interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon Jann Carson said in a statement. “Today’s decision is an important step toward ensuring all people can exercise their rights to protest and assembly without fear of government surveillance.”

A day earlier Carson said: “Unlawful police surveillance threatens our First Amendment rights. 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.

“Instead of monitoring protesters, Portland Police should focus its energies on heeding their messages: Black Lives Matter, racist police brutality must end, and it’s time to reimagine public safety,” added Kelly Simon, interim legal director of the ACLU of Oregon.

As of Friday, protests in Portland have continued for 64 consecutive days and have frequently turned violent. Law enforcement assigned to protect a federal courthouse in the city have frequently been assaulted with fireworks, lasers, rocks, and bottles. Some federal officers on duty may suffer from permanent blindness as a result of the attacks.

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