Court OK’s federal law enforcement officers assaulting journalists and observers in Portland protests

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “has just stripped away the protections granted to journalists and legal observers covering ongoing protests against racism in Portland, Oregon,” according to the website Techdirt.com.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a restraining order barring federal officers deployed to Portland “from using physical force, arresting or dispersing anyone they should ‘reasonably know’ is at the protests as a journalist or observer — unless the officers had probable cause to suspect the person had committed a crime,” reported the website OPB.

The Ninth Circuit panel stayed Judge Simon’s restraining order, “finding that a blanket order protecting journalists and observers from being assaulted makes things too tough for federal cops,” according to Techdirt’s analysis.

The case now goes to the full Ninth District Court of Appeals.

Anti-Police Brutality and Racism Protest in Portland. Photo: Nathaniel St. Clair/Wikimedia Commons.

The Ninth Circuit covers seven states in the westernmost United States, including Oregon.

A ruling by one District Court of Appeals isn’t binding on another. Minnesota is in the Eighth District, so this ruling doesn’t directly affect us, yet. It could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would have national impacts.

TechDirt reported that Judge Simon’s restraining order hadn’t been effective in reducing federal officers’ attacks on journalists at the Portland protests. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wasn’t enforcing it. DHS said “it couldn’t identify any of the officers and stated it had punished no one for violating the order.”

The plaintiffs, the Portland Mercury newspaper, went back to court seeking sanctions.

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel issued a temporary stay on Judge Simon’s ruling on a 2-1 vote, Courthouse News Service reported. Both justices voting to remove protections for journalists and observers were President Trump appointees.

In its brief three-page ruling, the panel wrote that Judge Simon’s order protecting journalists and observers was broad and wasn’t clear on who qualified as “Journalists” and “Legal Observers.” The order would “cause irreparable harm to law enforcement efforts and personnel,” the panel wrote.

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