UPDATE (4:58 p.m. PT) — U.S. District Judge Michael Simon has agreed to allow attorneys for the Oregon ACLU to add the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service as defendants in its lawsuit alleging police are targeting journalists and legal observers covering ongoing protests in Portland.
A few hours after the decision, the ACLU did sue the two federal agencies seeking to limit what police and other law enforcement officers can do during the now-nightly protests.
Those restrictions include barring the police from arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force against journalists or legal observers unless they "reasonably know" that person has committed a crime. On Thursday, Simon extended those temporary protections through the end of October. Along with adding federal agencies to the lawsuit, the ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order that also makes federal agents abide by those restrictions until at least Oct. 30.
Attorneys working with the ACLU argued during a Thursday hearing that federal agents have been coordinating with the Portland Police Bureau and that it was logical that federal agents be met with the same restrictions by which Portland police officers are bound.
Attorneys point to the night of July 11 into the early hours of July 12, when, filings allege, dozens of federal agents came out of the Justice Center, where the Portland police are based, and “began a campaign of wholesale violence.” Later on in the night, the filings say, Portland police joined the agents, working in tandem with them to clear the streets.
Portland police leaders have been unclear on how much they are coordinating with federal officials. Mayor Ted Wheeler said he refused to meet with the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security when he came to Portland Thursday, and he and other city leaders have asked federal officials to remove their officers from the city. But the head of the Portland Police Association, the rank-and-file officers union, did meet with the DHA secretary. He said he wanted the Portland police and the federal agents to work more smoothly together.
New filings in the ACLU lawsuit include accounts of two independent journalists who say they were attacked by federal officers while trying to document the protests. The first account, by freelance journalist Garrison Davis, said shortly after midnight on July 12 he was hit in the back with a tear gas canister and was repeatedly shot at with pepper bullets and other munitions while he was trying to film the tear gas. Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photojournalist, said he was shot multiple times by a federal agent with enough force to rip his shirt. Both journalists said they were wearing clothing that said “press” in large block letters.
The city argued that its stance in regard to the federal officers had been one “of strong condemnation” and that the city had no control over federal agents that night. They said the plaintiffs should make their claims against the federal agents in a separate lawsuit.