PORTLAND NEEDS WILLAMETTE WEEK.
NOW WILLAMETTE WEEK NEEDS YOU.

The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland’s Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists

“Free speech is an indivisible right, and everyone has to have it for the whole thing to work."

In a year when the First Amendment seems under threat from all sides, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has emerged as Portland's most dogged and consistent defenders of free speech—no matter who's talking or what they're saying.

"We think that the First Amendment rights are the cornerstone of all of our other rights," says ACLU spokeswoman Sarah Armstrong. "But it can be complicated because we often have strange bedfellows when we're talking about free speech."

Strange bedfellows indeed. The ACLU of Oregon chided Mayor Ted Wheeler for asking the federal government to revoke a permit allowing far-right activists to hold a Trump Free Speech Rally. Just nine days before, Jeremy Christian—who had attended marches held by the same activists—hurled racist insults at two Muslim teenagers on a MAX train and then stabbed three men who came to the girls' defense, killing two of them. Wheeler said the city's wounds were still too raw.

But the ACLU wasn't having it.

"The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period," the ACLU tweeted in response. "If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line."

In March, the ACLU had been just as firm in its opposition when the Portland City Council voted to instate a rule banning "disruptive" leftist gadflies from council meetings.

"Free speech is an indivisible right, and everyone has to have it for the whole thing to work," Armstrong says.

Recently, the ACLU of Oregon stood up for those who have very little power to raise their own voices, by taking on laws that bar homeless people from panhandling in Portland and Gresham. The cities settled the case and are currently changing their laws against panhandling after the ACLU challenged them on the grounds that they illegally outlawed an entire class of speech: speech asking for money.

The civil liberties group's most recent free speech victory, on June 28, helped a coalition of conservation groups exercise the right to buy ads in Portland International Airport after the Port of Portland refused to post anti-clearcutting billboards because of their political message.

And there's more: The ACLU had a major victory in April when Portland and Gresham settled in a case involving a woman who livestreamed the police in 2013. A Gresham police officer grabbed Carrie Medina's phone, twisted her arm and detained her, effectively censoring her. The free-speech champions have also put pressure on Portland police to use a lighter touch when policing protests and to stop targeting protest leaders and political activists.

"Being known as a place where people regularly take to the streets, people are surprised when they see what the police response to protest is like here," Armstrong said. "You'll definitely see more from us on protest rights. We're clearly not done."

Best of Portland 2017

This Year, More Than Ever, It's Important to Stop and Take Note of Everything That Makes Portland What It Is

Here are the Winners of the Best of Portland Readers' Poll 2017

Here are the Things WW Declared "The Best" in the Last 12 Months

Inside Mall 205, You'll Find Oregon's Last Remaining Magic Shop

Portland's Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them

A Vancouver Man Bought Naked Falls Swimming Hole, So He Could Re-Open It to the Public

Rodney Scott Puts On Portland's Greatest Indie Firework Show

Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art

Two College Students Started An Organization to Provide Bras and Underwear to Homeless Women

Jim Hipsher Is Portland's Greatest Live Book of Poetry

These Two Women Make Showing Up for Jury Duty A Lot Less Terrible

On Northeast Broadway, You Can Learn Boxing From Two-Time World Champ Molly "Fearless" McConnell

Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course

Did You Know You Can Play a 9-Hole Portland-Themed Mini-Golf Course?

Seven Years Ago, New Trail Blazer Caleb Swanigan Was 360 Pounds and Living in Homeless Shelters

Each Week, a Group Goes to Laurelhurst Park to Throw Axes Through the Air—And They're Really Good

Portland Now Has a Nonprofit That Gives Kids Access to Free Pinball

Marathon Taverna Hosts Portland's Best Late-Night Raffle, Giving Away T-Shirts and 100-Level Blazers Tickets

The City of Portland Made a Sign Reading "Heartbreak Dead Ahead"

There's a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore "Forest" on Division Street

You Can Get a Pre-Addressed Letter to Trump from Paymaster Lounge's Vending Machine

A Local Business Totally Trolled Willamette Week—And It Was Awesome

The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland's Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists

Division Street's Oregon Theater Is Portland's Greatest NSFW Twitter Account

There's a Library in Vancouver Full of Hundreds of Books That Have Never Been Published, And Never Will Be

Alberta Street's American Legion Post 134 Went Rogue—Inviting Homeless In and Hosting LGBTQ Nights

Beaverton's Spectra Gymnastics Provides Play Spaces for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

There's a Hidden, Underground Sculpture Inside the Standard Insurance Center in Downtown Portland

One of the Oldest Retail Businesses in the City is a 127-Year-Old Woman-Owned Costume Shop—Now, It's in Danger of Closing

In the Portland Area's Wealthiest Neighborhood Lies a Hidden, Public Scottish Garden As Large as the Japanese Garden

The Zymoglyphic Museum is a Self-Contained World of Rogue Taxidermy and Steampunk

Every Sunday, Portland Hosts a Real-Life "Fast and the Furious"

Portland's Best Daycaction is a Cheap Flight to Pendleton, Where the Cowboys Still Walk The Streets

Oregon City's Tim Kovar Is one of the Nation's Foremost Tree-Climbing Experts

Hero Punk Stole the Satyricon Sign and Sold it to VooDoo Doughnut Owner in Exchange for Lifetime Doughnuts

High School Junior Won a Major Science Competition in the World By Investigating Where Portland's Fish Went

Who Do You Call When Your Goat Is Throwing Up? Portland's Go-To Goat Doctor, Of Course

Meet the Portland Poodle Who Dresses Better Than You

Every Saturday, A Train Runs Through Oaks Bottom, Making Birdwatching Actually Fun

Right Now, Three Dogs Living at a Southeast Portland Dispensary Are High on CBD Dog Treats

Feeling Sad Lately? Snuggle Up to One of Portland's Therapy Bunnies

Pet Barn Will Watch Your Boa Constrictor While You're Out of Town, But Not Your Dog

In the '90s, Two Portland Teenagers Aired Old WWF Matches. Now, They Have a Treasure Trove of Wrestling Archives

Portland Science Rapper Coma Niddy Has the Best Rhymes About Black Holes You've Ever Heard

There is a Secret Willamette River Bridge Most Portlanders Have Forgotten Exists

Hero Portland Man Built an 8-Foot Tall Multnomah Falls Out of LEGOs

There's An Alley in North Portland Where Robots Will Call Out To You

Daddy Mojo's Has the Finest Gallery of Signed Celebrity Memorabilia of Any Bar in Portland

Portland's Black Book Guitars Owner Has Tracked Down Guitars from Elliot Smith and Kurt Cobain

Thank God for the Los Cactus Food Cart, Which, For 14 Years Has Fed Junkyard Customers for Cheap

Two Portlanders Created a Willy Wonka-Style Edible Forest Near Milwaukie

Portland's Best Bagelmaker Was Saved By Someone in Line at WinCo—Now, He's Repaying Strangers' Kindness

You and Your Friends Can Drink for Free for an Hour on Your Birthday at This Portland Bar

The Portland-Area Finally Has Hong Kong-Style Ice Cream Bubble Waffles

Yes, There Is a Place in Portland Where You Can Try Witches' Brews and Heal Yourself with a Fire Pit

Portland's Best Fritters Come From Donut Queen on 58th and East Burnside

When a Pro-Trump Rally Came to Portland, a Good Samaritan Helped Calm the Tension By Handing Out Free Weed

If You Haven't Noticed Yet, the Trail Blazers Twitter Account is on Fire

The New Market of Choice On Belmont Has The Very Best Grocery Store Beer Selections We've Ever Seen

Yes, There a Secret Underground Bowling Alley in the Center of Portland

When Portland Saw Snowstorms, the National Weather Service Twitter Became Our 24/7 Therapist