Portland, OR – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) for livestreaming footage showing rioters attacking police and demolishing the downtown area.
The lawsuit, filed by ACLU of Oregon on Wednesday, alleged that the PPB’s live videos violate rioters’ rights under state law by collecting or maintaining information pertaining to the social, religious, or political affiliations or activities of citizens who the ACLU contended are not suspected of having broken the law, The Oregonian reported.
The ACLU complained that the PPB has livestreamed some of the footage “so the community could understand what was occurring at the protest.”
Many of those who have appeared in the videos did not want “to be recorded,” according to the lawsuit.
“Several have shouted as much at PPB’s cameraperson; others have shone bright lights at its camera in attempts to obscure the camera’s view of the crowds,” the ACLU said.
According to the lawsuit, the live videos also violated a 1988 “civil settlement agreement” between Portland police and the ACLU.
“Portland Police Officers shall not collect or maintain information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information relates directly to an investigation of criminal activities, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct,” the department’s formal policy change read, according to the lawsuit.
ACLU of Oregon Interim Executive Director Jann Carson told The Oregonian that officers are able to zoom in on rioters’ faces, making them vulnerable to facial surveillance technology.
“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,” Carson declared.
Federal officers and PPB have made arrests after reviewing the footage to identify rioters responsible for damaging property or committing acts of violence, The Oregonian reported.
Rioters have repeatedly fired mortars and other projectiles at police, sprayed the federal courthouse with graffiti, broken windows, attempted to barricade exits, and ignited fires inside and outside of the courthouse and other buildings during overnight attacks.
They have blocked traffic, destroyed parks and other public spaces, and caused over $23 million in losses to downtown businesses due to looting and rioting.
“Instead of monitoring protesters, Portland Police should focus its energies on heeding their messages: Black Lives Matter, racist police brutality must end, and it’s time to reimagine public safety,” ACLU of Oregon Interim Legal Director Kelly Simon told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The ACLU contended in the lawsuit that rioters face “serious and imminent threat of irreparable harm” due to the PPB livestreams.
“The City’s livestreaming of the videos has caused a specific injury to Plaintiffs’ rights under [Oregon law]…Their injury is real, and not hypothetical or speculative, because the City has already engaged in conduct prohibited by [state law] and will continue to do so unless this court does otherwise,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit demanded that the court ban PPB “from livestreaming or otherwise recording video or audio of protesters demonstrating in public spaces, except where the video or audio relates to an investigation of criminal activities and there exist reasonable grounds to suspect the subjects of the videos are or may be involved in criminal conduct.”
“Oregon is not a surveillance state,” the lawsuit stated. “With this action, [the ACLU of Oregon] seeks to eliminate a practice by the City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau that threatens to turn it into one.”
The ACLU further requested that the city be held responsible for the legal costs the ACLU has and will accrue in the matter, as well as “other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.”
Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve said she could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit, The Oregonian reported.