The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday temporarily lifted a lower court’s preliminary injunction on federal law enforcement officers’ use of force, threats and dispersal orders against journalists and observers working at Portland protests
PORTLAND — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday temporarily lifted a lower court’s preliminary injunction on federal law enforcement officers’ use of force, threats and dispersal orders against journalists and legal observers working at Portland protests.
The injunction was put in place by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon while the federal government appeals the restriction.
The appeals court said Simon’s injunction was “without adequate legal basis.” It concluded that the government showed the order “will cause irreparable harm to law enforcement efforts and personnel.”
For now, the ruling essentially puts journalists and legal observers on the same footing as demonstrators when it comes to orders to disperse and the use of force.
The matter was heard by 9th Circuit Judges Eric Miller, Daniel Bress and M. Margaret McKeown.
Miller and Bress, both appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump, lifted the injunction.
McKeown, appointed to the appeals court by President Bill Clinton, dissented, saying the government “failed to meet its burden to demonstrate either an emergency or irreparable harm” to support lifting the injunction.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon issued a statement saying it disagrees with the 9th Circuit decision, describing it as “only temporary and not the final word.”
“We look forward to having a chance to brief the issue on the merits,” the ACLU said in a statement. “The freedom of the press protects a democracy from devolving into tyranny. Under the First Amendment, press and legal observers must be allowed to document what’s happening at protests without being assaulted, shot, detained, or arrested. The government cannot be held to account if there is no one left to document its actions.”
Last month, Simon issued an order temporarily barring federal officers from using force, threats and dispersal orders against journalists or legal observers at the protests. The measure had been sought by journalists and legal observers represented by the ACLU of Oregon. He granted the preliminary injunction last week to continue the order.
Attorneys submitted statements from journalists, photojournalists and legal observers who have suffered shots to the back, neck and legs from impact munitions fired by federal officers outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse during the federal response to the demonstrations.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys argued that it was too difficult for federal officers to distinguish peaceful demonstrators from violent ones. They said federal officers must make split-second decisions and are wearing masks, helmets and other face-coverings and that they can’t stop to determine who is a member of the press or a legal observer when commercial fireworks are being thrown at them and lasers shined in their eyes and everyone before them has their cellphone out filming their actions.
— Noelle Crombie; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-276-7184; @noellecrombie
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