Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
ACLU sues Portland to stop police from livestreaming ongoing demonstrations
© WikiMedia (The All-Nite Images)
ACLU sues Portland to stop police from livestreaming ongoing demonstrations

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the Multnomah County Circuit Court against the City of Portland in connection with the Portland Police Bureau’s use of livestreaming demonstrations in downtown Portland.

Following the death of George Floyd, thousands of individuals have protested in Portland. According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Portland Police Bureau conduct surveillance on the individuals protesting, livestreaming internet videos. These videos were livestreamed on a variety of platforms, including YouTube. Even though the videos regularly depict peaceful protesters not engaged in criminal activity, the videos focus on specific protesters supposedly for the purpose of identifying them.

The PPB has claimed that the videos were for “situational awareness” and “so the community could understand what was occurring at the protest.” The ACLU counters that the livestreaming violates Oregon state law ORS 181A.250, which generally prohibits police from gathering information on activities of individuals not suspected of criminal activity. The ACLU claims that the videos “pose a serious and imminent threat of irreparable harm” to the individuals filmed and other protesters. The ACLU is asking that the court provide injunctive relief, prohibiting PPB from continuing to livestream the protests. 

Jann Carson, the interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, 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.

In July, the ACLU was also involved in a lawsuit that blocked federal agents in Portland from arresting and using force against journalists and legal observers.