Federal Court Signs Order to Protect Journalists, Legal Observers during Portland Protests


By Ayanna Gandhi

PORTLAND, OR – The ACLU late Thursday reported that U.S. District Judge Michael Simon “blocked federal agents in Portland from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or targeting force against journalists or legal observers at protests.”

The court’s order, which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, adds the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service to an existing injunction barring Portland police from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at Portland protests.

Zoe Tillman, Buzzfeed reporter, tweeted, “Judge Simon rejected DOJ’s argument that the journalists and legal observers lacked standing because they hadn’t alleged ongoing harm, quoting the court: ‘The actions by the federal agents described by Plaintiffs are part of a pattern of officially sanctioned conduct.’”

The judge also wrote that the DOJ engaged in “circular logic” when it argued journalists didn’t have a right to stay when federal officers closed streets,” noting that “the point of journalists was to observe and report if those officers were acting lawfully.”

The temporary restraining order states that “federal agents also cannot unlawfully seize any photographic equipment, audio- or video-recording equipment, or press passes from journalists and legal observers, or order journalists or legal observers to stop photographing, recording, or observing a protest.”

In the order Simon quotes the case Leigh v. Salazar, saying, “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.”

Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said, “This order is a victory for the rule of law. Federal agents from Trump’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking journalists and legal observers documenting protests. These are the actions of a tyrant, and they have no place anywhere in America.”

Additionally, “ACLU state chapters have filed multiple lawsuits in response to the use of federal force in Portland and the violent clearing of protesters outside the White House on June 1.”

The ACLU of Oregon yesterday filed a lawsuit against DHS, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the city of Portland for attacking volunteer street medics. That case is currently pending before a federal court.

Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, states, “The Trump administration is deploying federal agents around the country in a senseless and brutal attempt to silence dissent. We are working to make sure that this unconstitutional nightmare ends in Portland, and is not replicated anywhere else.

“The lawsuit subject to today’s ruling was filed on behalf of legal observers and local journalists. Named plaintiffs include: The Portland Mercury (Index Newspapers LLC), John Rudoff, a 72-year-old photojournalist, who was shot on two separate occasions by federal agents, Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photographer who federal agents shot 10 times in the back (video), Justin Yau, a freelance journalist who federal agents attacked with tear gas, Doug Brown, a legal observer who federal agents threatened to shoot.

“It also included Alex Milan Tracy, who was shot by federal agents on July 20 and then hit with a stun grenade by federal agents on July 22, and Kat Mahoney, a legal observer who was tear-gassed by federal agents. All individuals were wearing high-visibility shirts that said “PRESS” or ‘legal observer.’”

Matthew Borden, pro bono counsel for the ACLU Foundation of Oregon and partner at BraunHagey & Borden LLP, said, “This injunction is a critical protection for journalists and legal observers exercising their fundamental right to record and observe police activities at these important protests, and it’s a victory for the nation’s right to receive a full account of these events.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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26 thoughts on “Federal Court Signs Order to Protect Journalists, Legal Observers during Portland Protests”

  1. Tia Will

    “The ACLU of Oregon yesterday filed a lawsuit against DHS, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the city of Portland for attacking volunteer street medics. That case is currently pending before a federal court.”

    After several documented instances of medics being forced to leave the injured untended, and their supplies being deliberately destroyed, I was happy to see this is pending. Regardless of one’s political position, those injured should be immediately cared for.

    1. Bill Marshall

      The key, for protesters, the “heat”, to do everything to prevent injuries in the first place…

      Did the medics also attend to and police/other authorities who were injured (if any)?

      I know that even in the Pacific, in WWII, medics also treated Japanese soldiers… got my “Y” chromosome from a medic who did so… true, the Marines he was assigned to got first priority, on a ‘triage’ basis… but a Japanese soldier with a more severe wound sometimes got more attention than a Marine with an “owie”…

  2. Keith Olsen

    Did you all see the “peaceful” Portland rioters trying to barricade the Feds into the courthouse and then starting the building on fire?  All involved should all be charged with attempted murder.

  3. Tia Will


    As a doctor, I don’t pick and choose who to treat and who to ignore. When a gunshot wound hit the ER I didn’t stop to ask if he was a gang member or an innocent bystander. I did what I was trained to do. I am sure the street medics work to the same code. I honestly cannot see how this is even controversial.

    1. Keith Olsen


      Read my post again.  First of all my comment wasn’t directed at you or your comment.  I never stated anything about the street medics.  SMH

    2. Bill Marshall

      Our posts “crossed” in time… it is all ‘triage’ (or should be) as to medical aid…

      Interesting comparison tho’… in the Pacific, WWII, the US figured out that it was not a good idea to put the ‘red cross’ on medics’ helmets… an inconvenient truth is that the Japanese used it as an “aiming spot”, figuring if you ‘took out’ the medic, then he couldn’t treat others… yeah, real story… that’s why my Dad got ‘promoted’ to field medic… without a red cross on his helmet… in the early Pacific campaigns, the casualty rate was very “disproportionate”, one might say ‘biased’ for medics vs. other combatants…

      Sounds like some of ‘law enforcement’ are doing similar things to medics, in real time… scary.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Great.  I hope you instructed them to report with an open and unbiased mind with only the facts, no spin.  Maybe some pics of the havoc and destruction being perpetrated by the protesters would be interesting.

  4. Keith Olsen

    Three federal officers could be permanently blind after laser attacks from Portland protesters

    “When officers responded to put out these fires, glass bottles were thrown and lasers – which can cause permanent blindness – were shined in their eyes,” said Deputy Director of Operations Richard Cline. “We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks.”


      1. Alan Miller

        Another reason they shouldn’t be there they might get hurt

        You didn’t seriously say that.  I had my retina burned by an idiot f-ing with a  laser.  Lasers with the power to do eye damage are weapons of terror on the level of biological weapons.  That you could be so flippant about this is alarming.  I would recommend life sentences for anyone convicted of using a weapon such as this.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Yeah Alan, I too thought David’s reply was over the top.  That would be like saying the street medics shouldn’t be there because they might get hurt.

          1. David Greenwald

            Difference being that medics are there against the wishes of the community and the mayor

        2. Keith Olsen

          How do you know what the wishes of the community are?  There are 2000 protesters and Antifa agitators currently rioting out of a population of 600,000.  Sure the rioters don’t want the feds there protecting federal property, but that doesn’t speak for the rest of the community.  I’ll bet they’re disgusted with the damage and blight being caused to their city.

          1. Don Shor

            that doesn’t speak for the rest of the community.

            The mayor speaks for the rest of the community. That’s what elected officials do.

        3. Keith Olsen

          The mayor is out of touch.  He no longer speaks for the community.

          Using your logic then Trump speaks for the nation.  Are you okay with that?

          1. Don Shor

            The mayor is out of touch. He no longer speaks for the community.


            Using your logic then Trump speaks for the nation. Are you okay with that?

            It would be one of the important jobs of the president of the United States to speak truthfully to the American people about issues. That is one of the failings of this president. Yes, he is supposed to speak for the nation.

  5. David Greenwald

    Jeh Johnson, a former Head Of Homeland Security for 4 years 2013-2017- and prior to that General Counsel for the Department Of Defense, said today that a large number of the Portland federal agents who are deployed there against the request of the Mayor, etc., are not actually federal employees.  They are part of a private company, formerly Blackwater…

  6. Chris Griffith


    Of the two thousand demonstrators last night in Portland how many of them we’re legal observers press etc.

    Where did they insert themselves in this protest I bet it was right out front

    The silent majority is watching and they’re becoming very grumpy I will guarantee in November Democrats are going to lose significantly at the rate you’re doing things there won’t be a Democrat elected as a dog catcher

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