This article was originally published on our sister publication The Portland Mercury‘s blog Blogtown, where you can find ongoing coverage of Portland’s protests related to the killing of George Floyd. —Eds.
A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) livestream video of nightly protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Shortly after protests began two months ago, PPB began live-streaming the events from the cops’ vantage point, and sharing the stream on social media. The livestream, which is used inconsistently and begins and ends at unpredictable times, is an apparent attempt at providing police transparency and showing the public what the police were up against in policing protesters.
On Wednesday, a team of civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland, arguing that PPB’s livestream constitutes a “surveillance state.” The complaint argued that the livestream violates a state law that bars law enforcement from recording people based on their political belief if they are not suspected of committing a crime. While there’s a chance PPB’s livestream may have recorded some criminal activity, it also broadcast thousands of nonviolent protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. The suit names “Protester 1,” an anonymous person who has been recorded on the livestream, as a plaintiff.
“The videos regularly depict individual protesters who are demonstrating peacefully and engaging in no criminal activity at all,” the complaint reads. “Nevertheless, the videos have focused and will continue to focus on specific protesters, apparently for the purpose of identifying them.”
On Thursday, Stephen K. Bushong issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits PPB from live-streaming the protests at least through August 9, while the case plays out.
“The Portland Police Bureau [is] temporarily enjoined from collecting or maintaining audio or video of protesters demonstrating in public spaces,” the temporary restraining order states, “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 involved in criminal conduct.”
Support The Stranger
This isn’t the first time PPB has faced scrutiny for collecting data about protesters in a potentially illegal manner. In 1988, the bureau promised in a settlement agreement with the ACLU to not “collect or maintain information” about people based on their political, religious, or social views.
That 1988 agreement was referenced in the complaint, filed by lawyers with the ACLU of Oregon, the Angeli Law Group, and local public records lawyer Alan Kessler.
“PPB’s practice of livestreaming videos of protesters amounts to a violation of [state law], and to a breach of the Agreement,” it reads. “By livestreaming videos of protesters, PPB collects and maintains information about their political and social views, associations, and activities.”