Friday, December 4, 2020
Dec. 4, 2020

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Judge cites Trump tweets in restricting feds’ actions in Portland

He urges ‘rules of engagement’ for protests


PORTLAND — A federal judge found Friday that tweets by President Donald Trump helped incite improper conduct by federal officers responding to racial justice demonstrations in Portland, and directed both sides in a lawsuit to determine “rules of engagement” for officers acting outside a U.S. courthouse.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman granted a preliminary injunction on a First Amendment claim in the case against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security filed by two state lawmakers and the Portland-based Western States Center, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

However, Mosman rejected their claim that the federal officers violated the 10th Amendment’s separation of powers.

He directed the parties to agree on the “contours” of the injunction, asking them to provide him with their best proposals within hours Friday because he wants a deal reached before Election Day, when mass protests are expected.

Mosman suggested the rules of engagement broadly curb any “violent or aggressive law enforcement activity against entirely peaceful protesters” and explore setting a perimeter for enforcement by federal officers outside the downtown Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.

The judge said the rules might include prohibiting direct tear gassing or pepper spraying of nonviolent protesters and avoiding knocking down nonviolent protesters or chasing those who are separate from violent agitators. He said the officers also must have probable cause to arrest people.

Mosman said he doesn’t expect the relief to address incidents in which peaceful protesters are interspersed with violent ones. But, the judge said, “if you’re not mixed in with them and you’re nonviolent, bad things should not happen to you.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs had urged the court to restrict federal officers to a nine-square-block area outside the courthouse when protests happen.

“It’s still a legitimate point that there ought to be some place in downtown Portland where one can come and say to themselves, look, I’m just not going to be mixing it up with federal law enforcement if I’m this far from the courthouse, whether that’s one block or four blocks or whatever it might be,” Mosman said.

Once that so-called “line of scrimmage” is drawn, the parties need to agree on the rules of engagement at that boundary line, the judge said.

If they can’t agree, Mosman said they should provide him with their two best proposals and he’ll meet with them again.

The lawsuit was filed by state Democratic Reps. Janelle S. Bynum, who represents Clackamas, and Karin A. Power of Milwaukie, along with Portland lawyer and legal observer Sara D. Eddie, the First Unitarian Church of Portland and Western States Center, an organization that monitors right-wing extremism.

They sued Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, saying the aggressive dispersal of protesters by federal agents encroached on state powers and breached the First Amendment by interfering with the right to protest.