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Oregon ACLU Sues City of Portland for Attacking Reporters and Legal Observers

Plaintiffs say PPB officers violated the First and Fourth amendments.

The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on Sunday on behalf of journalists and legal observers who say law enforcement attacked them while they were attending protests in an official capacity.

The plaintiffs include journalists Tuck Woodstock, Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, Sam Gehrke and John Rudoff, as well as Kat Mahoney and Doug Brown, who are neutral legal observers.

In the lawsuit, filed against the city of Portland, Portland Police Bureau supervisors and officers, and the miscellaneous law enforcement agencies who have aided PPB during protests, the plaintiffs say they have been assaulted with  flash-bangs, rubber bullets and tear gas "merely for seeking to cover the

Related: Portland journalist pens first-person account of being pepper-sprayed while filming an arrest.

The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory judgment that determines the defendants cannot threaten reporters and legal observers with arrest or target them with use of force while they are participating in "constitutionally protected acts of speech and expressive conduct during protests," like news gathering and documenting interactions between police and protesters.

"Since the protests began, the Portland police have been intentionally and indiscriminately attacking neutral members of the press and legal observers," the complaint says. "This conduct has intimidated journalists and neutrals and reduced the number of media and observers willing to attend protests and to stay to document and observe the protests. The police's conduct is part of a long-standing pattern of assaulting and threatening members of the press to prevent them from telling the public about the police's conduct."

The lawsuit also notes that, beginning on June 14, PPB announced that its dispersal orders apply to everyone, including reporters and legal observers.

"This policy is an unlawful viewpoint-based restriction on speech," the complaint says. "It is designed to prevent reporters and legal observers from holding the police accountable precisely when accountability is most needed. No government interest can justify such a policy, especially because reporters are not a threat to the public, police or property."

The Police Bureau declined to comment on the lawsuit because the litigation is pending. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell have previously condemned cops roughing up reporters, although allegations of such treatment have since continued.

In their treatment of journalists and legal observers, the journalists say the city violated the First and Fourth amendments, as well as articles of the Oregon Constitution.

"I felt it to be my civic duty to use my skills and equipment to document this important moment in history," said plaintiff Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, a freelance photographer. "I was horrified and bewildered by what I witnessed. Portland's police, who are sworn to protect the community and uphold the Constitution, were doing the opposite; violently suppressing the First Amendment rights of the people."

The lawsuit says the plaintiffs are seeking both injunctive relief and compensatory relief, though it does not specify a dollar amount.