ACLU Asks Judge to Find Federal Agents in Portland in Contempt of Court for Violating Order

If the judge rules in the ACLU’s favor, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf could be called to testify in Portland.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge Michael Simon to find federal agents in contempt of the court for violating a July 23 restraining order that prohibited the federal officers from attacking journalists and legal observers covering Portland protests.

The ACLU also asked Judge Simon to order acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to "personally appear before the court and show cause as to why they should not be sanctioned for contempt."

It is also asking the judge to order "each federal agent who violated the restraining order to be identified, personally appear, and be prohibited from engaging in armed operations in Portland."

"Every day it has existed, federal agents have intentionally violated the court's [order]," the court filing says. "As a result of the federal agents' defiance of the court's order, the free press remains unsafe while trying to document and observe the cataclysmic violence that federal authorities are inflicting on Portland."

Ten reporters and legal observers submitted written testimony that federal agents had assaulted them after the July 23 restraining order was issued.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Jonathan Levinson said in written testimony that a federal agent deliberately shot rounds of paint at his camera lens while he was taking photographs in the early morning of July 24.

"One agent was standing on a platform near the north side of Southwest 3rd Avenue," Levinson wrote in his testimony. "I was trying to take a photograph, but I had trouble focusing through the fence. As I looked from him to my lens and back at him, I saw him raise his weapon, deliberately point it at me, and fire several rounds. My camera and lens were splattered with paint."

Another OPB reporter, Rebecca Ellis, said federal agents actively prevented her and her colleagues from documenting events as police tried to disperse protesters July 23. Another shot her hand with a munition, according to her testimony.

"One agent shouted in our faces, 'Move! Move!' and, 'Walk faster!'
Another agent, next to him, kept pace holding his gun," Ellis said in written testimony.  "These two agents together prevented me and my colleagues from reporting on what was going on behind them."

Earlier today, United States Attorney General Bill Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee. During his testimony, he spoke defiantly and said the "most basic responsibility of government is to ensure the rule of law."

"Willfully violating a court order protecting our constitutional rights is not ensuring the rule of law," Matthew Borden, a lawyer with the ACLU, said in a press release Tuesday. "It is, by any objective measure, an assault on our democracy and system of checks and balances. The administration must be held accountable for its lawlessness."

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