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Some people detained during demonstrations in Portland, Ore, say their release conditions prevent them from taking part in the protests, experts at the First Amendment said there was a need to worry.
ProPublica said Tuesday that at least a dozen protesters arrested in recent weeks have been barred from taking part in demonstrations within the city or state, or at all, while awaiting trial for allegations of federal misconduct. Protesters say it was one of several conditions – including compliance with curfew, avoiding the area around the federal courthouse, and appearing for court appointments – that they had to agree to in order to leave prison.
Bailey Dreibelby, 23, is one such protester. He told NPR Vanessa Romo that he was arrested on July 22. In the evening and released the next afternoon under certain conditions, including the fact that there will be no more protests in Portland.
Dreibel said it was quite clear to his lawyer that if I wanted to be there that day, I would have to take them. ”
“She seemed to be joking with me because I didn’t do anything wrong with her arrest,” he added. “I didn’t attack the officer, I didn’t shine anything.”
Dreibel said he fell into an open fence outside the federal court building, noting that he saw no signs or heard reports that the area was outside. A spokesman for the U.S. prosecution said Dreibelby was accused of failing to comply with a lawful order that is a Class C offense.
Like Dreibelby, other protesters are facing charges of petty crimes committed on federal grounds.
According to ProPublica, 18 of the 50 protesters accused in Portland are charged with only minor crimes under federal law, which criminalizes certain acts when they occur on federal property or against people who own that property. Such conduct includes “disregard for legal requirements” and “disorderly conduct”.
From July 21 alone. Until July 24. Fourteen protesters were charged with “violating a lawful order,” ProPublica said.
ProPublica’s revised orders setting out the conditions for release were signed by a federal judge in Portland. Kevin Sonoff of the U.S. law firm told NPR in an email that prosecutors did not seek to “not protest” the restriction that he had added by the court. He said the bureau had in fact demanded that those released be banned from applying the five-block limit around the federal courthouse.
“This morning, we joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office together with a recommendation to the court to change these additional release conditions,” Sonoff said.
Dreibel said to the NPR that he did not initially plan to take part in the protest that evening – he said he rolled skates after work and ended up in that part of town – and now cannot take part in other protests.
Legal experts in the NPR argued that such a provision almost certainly violates the “First Amendment” rights of individuals to free assembly.
“These conditions are very worrying and can be unconstitutional,” he said. The letter was written by Ramya Krishnan, a staff lawyer at the Knight’s First Amendment Institute. “The general ban on participating in future protests in the city seriously violates the First Amendment right to free assembly and is not reasonably related to the legitimate aim of pre-trial release.”
Enrique Armijo, a professor of law at the University of Elon, explained that it is not uncommon for criminal defendants to waive certain rights as a condition for their release, but these conditions are usually very narrow for public safety and closely related to prosecution.
According to him, the agreements in Portland are too broad because they do not show a clear link between public security and the right sought to be waived and the alleged damage to public security.
“You can’t say that because of what you may have done with federal property, the federal court will say you can’t engage in protected activities under the First Amendment throughout the city where that federal property is located.” said the Army. “It’s just a definition of what the First Amendment Law considers to be a surplus: what you’re asking to give up is a lot, far from a constitutional perspective, much more than what you’re supposed to have done.”
Elizabeth Goitein, codifying the Brennan Center for Justice’s Freedom and National Security Program, argued that such a “universal restriction of the First Amendment” violated one of the fundamental constitutional rights.
“The fact that these people may or may not have committed the offense is irrelevant, they have certainly not been tried or convicted of such a crime and are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” she said. “Even after someone is convicted of a crime, that doesn’t mean the government can demand that they give up the First Amendment freedoms.”
Goitein also noted that such practices raise red flags even outside of Portland, as this could happen in other cities.
“The problem is if it happens once,” she said. “And if that happens systematically in this country’s bigger city, we have to be very concerned.”
People gathered every night after George Floyd’s death in May for demonstrations against racism and police violence. Tensions escalated after the Trump administration deployed federal agents to the city to protect the federal courthouse earlier this month. Oregon government Kate Brown said federal agents would begin the phasing-out on Thursday.