Our Testimony Regarding the Proposed Portland Protest Ordinance

Dear Mayor Wheeler and Commissioners,

This written testimony is made on behalf of the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The Guild counts as its members radical legal workers, lawyers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers engaged in furthering and supporting the struggle for collective liberation. One of our many projects includes protester support for anti-oppression movements. That work includes legal observing—the famous green hats—and jail support. As this city and country has seen, many of the most radical leaps forward came from protest movements by organizations that were not seen as mainstream by city or federal governments, the media, and certainly not law enforcement. While we understand the desire to stop the right-wing violence brought to our city by Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, we cannot view this ordinance as anything but exactly what Patriot Prayer wants: another opportunity to enlarge the police state that has repeatedly attacked counter-demonstrators at their rallies.

This ordinance does three things: it enables the City to arbitrarily place individuals into ill-defined “groups,” it polices the language demonstrators use to craft what will undoubtedly be an overreaching protest restriction, and it enables post-hoc justifications for police violence against protesters.

Generally, it is true that time, place, and manner restrictions are valid exercises of state power per the first amendment. However, what we have seen at these demonstrations shows that when the Police are left to enforce these restrictions, counter-demonstrators get hurt. The police directing their attention and force toward one side can hardly be described as “content-neutral.” We and many, many others have observed this: Police line up, predominately facing the counter-demonstrators, and separate the groups. Often with no provocation, the police begin to violently disperse the counter-demonstrators. Most recently, on August 4, 2018, counter-demonstrators nearly got killed by police weapons and tactics, as the PPB turned downtown Portland into a war zone.

The ordinance describes at length some of the protests that have occurred in our city in the last year. We refute many of the factual conclusions made by the ordinance. Violence ascribed to protesters was actually caused by law enforcement. No one but the police deploy flash bang grenades, full strength pepper spray, pepper ball projectiles, and other impact weapons that amount to use of deadly force. How can police curtail threats to “safety of participants or bystanders,” when the police themselves have been the biggest threat?

It is of note that the ordinance cites the Menotti decision to justify its validity. That case came after the police actions at the WTO protests in Seattle, Washington, and a City ordinance that blocked protest activities near where world leaders were gathering. A decision was made by the Seattle PD to deploy tear gas at protesters trying to get the attention of these world leaders. The then-Chief of Police of Seattle, Norm Stamper, justified that decision at the time, but has since recanted, citing that the violence that followed was likely caused by the decision to clear protesters with police force.[1]

While the 9th Circuit upheld the ordinance following a facial-constitutional challenge, that was not the whole story of the case. The Court found that the individual, as-applied challenges to the ordinance’s enforcement could proceed to trial. That case was ultimately settled.

As here, this ordinance will just invite further violent police suppression of speech and lengthy, costly litigation.

The ordinance activates under three main circumstances: one of which is “When two or more groups have announced plans to demonstrate separately but on the same day, and there is a history of violence between the groups…” A reading of this section of the ordinance suggests that what the police will be doing is watching facebook events get created and shared. If that is the case, how will PPB determine who or what a group is? Does someone who likes, or comments, or clicks “interested” on an event then become part of the group? How can restrictions on demonstrations happening “separately but on the same day” possibly be narrowly tailored? Along with questioning how the City will determine who or what can be defined as a group, how will the City determine whether a history of “violence” (another vague term) exists between them? And where is there space to discuss the violence that has been initiated or escalated by the police?

These are important considerations since the ordinance allows the City to then limit the number of protesters at a demonstration. Given the vagueness of the statute, all it would take for a person to have their right to demonstrate curtailed is a facebook “like” on a comment from a Proud Boy saying they want to show up. That is overly broad, and will stifle far more speech than it will save, which is precisely what Joey Gibson wants. Patriot Prayer wants the City to scramble any and every time they make a peep on social media. You might think that it is incumbent on the counter-demonstrators to just not show up, but that is irresponsible and ignorant of the history of fascist movements, which thrive on public normalization of their activities.

These counter-demonstrators are not organizing by traditional notions of “groups.” More often, people want to go to protests because they are passionate about an idea and want to show up for it! They don not care who organized the event, they want to challenge the Kavanaugh hearing, or visibly oppose Patriot Prayer. This ordinance will stifle that.

This ordinance will also incite more police violence. The Portland Police Bureau has shown time after time that they do not focus on individual actors, but instead broadly cast demonstrators as lawbreakers as justification for use of force. This ordinance will exacerbate this by creating another layer of restrictions that many demonstrators will likely not be aware of. The ordinance provides: “Written orders imposed by the Commissioner in Charge will be released to the public prior to the event(s). The City will take steps to ensure that the public has been provided sufficient notice of any written orders.” How can this be assured? All it would take is a single protester who does not have twitter, or facebook, or access to the internet to miss the written orders. Once the written orders are broken, then PPB will have the opportunity to kick the butts of counter-demonstrators, as Chief Outlaw put it in her Lars Larson interview.

This testimony is meant to provide a broad outline for City Council’s consideration ahead of your vote. The Guild will be writing and submitting to your offices a legal memorandum detailing our concerns. We urge this council to reject this ordinance, and to understand that the community has been shocked and injured by the actions of the Portland Police Bureau at these protests. Rather than provide legal cover to state-sanctioned violence, we need to consider proactive, non-police and prison alternatives to the threat of right-wing violence.

For a collectively liberated future,


Portland National Lawyers Guild

[1] Talk of the Nation, Shifts In Police Tactics To Handle Crowds, National Public Radio, November 29, 2011.




RE: Portland Police Bureau’s Response to anti-oppression protests on August 4, 2018

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) condemns the actions taken by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and other coordinating law enforcement agencies on Saturday, August 4th, 2018. We are horrified by the level of state violence enacted, and decry PPB Chief Outlaw’s responses, which, among other things, called the injuries the PPB caused to anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstrators, journalists, and other civilians mere “allegations” to be investigated. At least two people were hospitalized with severe physical injuries, many others sustained less severe physical injury, and hundreds of people were indelibly traumatized by experiencing such extreme state violence. No one but the police were deploying flash bang grenades, full strength pepper spray, pepper ball projectiles, and other impact weapons that amount to use of deadly force.

The NLG had legal observers on the ground monitoring the police throughout the entire mobilization on Saturday, who witnessed truly disturbing action taken by the police. Despite the threats of gun violence emanating from the right-wing, which had proliferated throughout the internet in the days leading up to “Unite the Right West Coast,” the Portland Police Bureau focused their attention, and directed all uses of force, toward anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstrators.

The day began with Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, and other far-right groups and individuals rallying at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, leftists rallying at City Hall and Chapman Square. When leftist counter-demonstrators marched to the waterfront to demonstrate their opposition to right-wing ideology, PPB’s riot police lined up to face them. Though we understand the intention behind keeping the two opposing groups separated, it was visibly apparent that the police were there to “protect and serve” only one side. They faced the counter-demonstrators, and chose to try to make them disperse, despite the First Amendment implications, and no escalation from their side.

Sometime around 1:40pm, the anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstrators marched east on SW Columbia, to again visibly oppose the far-right’s un-permitted march down the waterfront. Though there was no escalation from the anti-fascist and anti-racist crowd, the police began giving dispersal orders, saying that “all those standing at SW Columbia and SW Naito need to move to the west immediately.” At this point, both sides were standing in that area. Shortly thereafter, however, just before 2pm, Portland Police officers stood close to the far-right group at the waterfront, and loaded and began deploying numerous rounds of flash bang grenades, then other projectiles, including chemical agents. As they launched the weapons into the crowd of hundreds of counter-demonstrators, the far-right was heard cheering, and police officers were photographed appearing to be laughing.

We reject the PPB’s assertion that they deployed “less-lethal” munitions on the crowd of counter-demonstrators “in response to the violent and assaultive behavior of the crowd.” If anything, the “violent and assaultive behavior” was exhibited and initiated by the police. From our standpoints, and from journalists’ video evidence we have reviewed, no “projectiles” were thrown at the officers until after they escalated into use of deadly force. Even then, those few “projectiles” were mostly water bottles that wouldn’t injure anyone at the protest, let alone the police—outfitted in full, militarized riot gear. The insinuation that the counter-demonstrators were the ones making the event unsafe is patently absurd.

As the police escalation continued, their skirmish line used batons to forcefully hit people, throwing them to the ground and drawing blood from numerous people caught up in the melee. A flash bang grenade or other explosive projectile hit one woman in the arm, causing it to break. Another hit the back of someone’s head, lodging it in their helmet, and causing a severe head wound that likely would have been lethal had the person not been wearing a helmet. Riot police sprinted after people, using their momentum and batons to launch those who could not get away fast enough into the air and onto the ground. Even after people had dispersed the area, and were a long distance from the far-right march, police continued to deploy impact, explosive, and chemical weapons on the terrified counter-demonstrators. The police had turned downtown Portland into a war zone.

After police ended their assault, many counter-demonstrators returned to SW Naito, to do the same thing they had been doing all day: outnumber and oppose those who had again chosen to rally in Portland to express violent, oppressive ideology.

The remarks made by Chief Outlaw and Assistant Chief Ryan Lee, made at a press conference on August 6th minimized the terror and trauma the community felt at the hands of the police. When asked about accountability for police actions, Outlaw responded, “Where is the accountability on both sides?” As if there is no unequal power distribution between police and anti-racist and anti-fascist civilians. Only one side is imbued with the power to use any amount of violent force on anyone they deem a threat, then infringe on their freedom by jailing them. That this response also referred to the police and counter-demonstrators as “the two sides” acknowledges this oppositional relationship, which is not what we have seen between far-right demonstrators and the police. Outlaw’s repeated assertion of the PPB’s “neutrality” is quickly rebutted by near-ubiquitous videos and firsthand accounts of the day.

In addition, this type of police violence is not new, and the potential for injury and death by flash bang grenades is well documented nationally. Our legal observers have watched the police escalate into militarized use of “less lethal” force since the fall of 2016, following the Trump election. Since that time, police have deployed numerous flash bang grenades at protests, among other weapons, and have injured multiple people with that force. Flash bangs have most commonly been used as part of the War on Drugs, maiming and terrifying the mostly Black residents whose lives have been subjected to the violence of home raids.

To summarize, we are outraged, dismayed, and heartbroken by the one-sided violence the police displayed on Saturday. Those who come to defend their community against the violent ideologies of white, male, cis, hetero, Christian, and American supremacy should never be met with deadly force by the police. We join the calls for PPB to discontinue their use of militarized “less-lethal” weapons, at protests, during house raids, and for any other purpose. Funding for such weapons and their training can and should be redirected away from the police, and into the services that create real safety for the people of Portland.

In solidarity against oppression,

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

Media Contact:

Juan C. Chavez


503-944-2270 ext. 212

Get Involved!

Hey NLG members!

Wondering what your other chapter members are working on, or how you can get involved with their work? You’re in luck! We’ll be convening our second annual Get Involved; Stay Connected meeting at Cider Riot on July 31, 2018. Check out the flier below!

Support for Oregon State Bar’s Publication of Statements Condemning Racism and White Nationalism

Dear Board of Governors,

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild expresses full and unequivocal support for the condemnation of racism and white nationalism expressed in two statements published in the Oregon State Bar’s April 2018 Bar Bulletin. Our chapter is committed to confronting racist ideologies and policies everywhere, from the White House to local fascists and Neo-Nazis who seek to increase their power in Oregon. Furthermore, we are committed to rooting out the structural and institutional racism that permeates our society.

The Bar’s own statement condemned the growth of racism and white nationalism in the United States. Several of Oregon’s Specialty Bar Associations, representing diverse communities within Oregon’s legal profession, authored and signed the second statement. This letter identified President Donald Trump as a source of the expansion and legitimization of racism in the United States and cited to the President’s published statements about people of color and immigrants and his executive order that halted refugee admissions and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The letter stated that it was “in support of” the Bar’s own statement, offered its own analysis of the issue, and was endorsed separately by seven different voluntary bar associations.

The Bar Bulletin solicits articles from attorneys and non-attorneys “on a wide variety of subjects, and favor such topics as access to justice, legal funding, judicial independence, diversity in the profession, professionalism and future trends.”[1] Thus, the Bar Bulletin is not, and cannot be perceived to be, speaking for all members of the Oregon State Bar. This is especially the case with regard to statements specifically signed by other, voluntary bar associations in the state. As a result, the Specialty Bar Associations’ statement does not impinge the First Amendment rights of the bantam group of attorneys who claimed to take offense. See Rounds v. Oregon State Bd. of Higher Educ., 166 F.3d 1032, 1038 (9th Cir. 1999) (upholding student fee funding for a campus organization in part because the organization did not, and was not perceived to be, speaking for all students).

We are therefore appalled that, in response to less than 20 attorneys who have complained, the Board of Governors has refunded bar dues attributable to the publication of the Specialty Bar Associations’ statement. This small group’s demand for the return of their entire annual dues and threatening of legal action is outrageous. We are concerned their actions will ultimately chill efforts to speak out on important issues facing our profession, including access to justice and the rule of law, at a time when such efforts are most necessary.

It is well-established that the regulatory function of a state bar justifies compelled membership.  Morrow v. State Bar, 188 F.3d 1174, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Lathrop v. Donohue, 367 U.S. 820 (1961)). Moreover, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Keller v. State Bar of California, the use of mandatory state bar dues does not violate the First Amendment rights of its members if “the challenged expenditures are necessarily or reasonably incurred for the purpose of regulating the legal profession or ‘improving the quality of the legal service available to the people of the State.’” 496 U.S. 1, 14 (1990). This “germaneness doctrine . . . does not silence organizational speech; rather, it requires only that ideological activities not germane to an organization’s purpose be funded through sources other than compulsory fees.” Rounds v. Oregon State Bd. of Higher Educ., 166 F.3d 1032, 1037 (9th Cir. 1999) (emphasis supplied). Thus, “[w]hat what Keller found objectionable was not political activity but partisan political activity as well as ideological campaigns unrelated to the bar’s purpose.” Gardner v. State Bar, 284 F.3d 1040, 1043 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis supplied).

According to its by-laws, the Oregon State Bar acts to “to serve justice by promoting respect for the rule of law, by improving the quality of legal services and by increasing access to justice.”[2] Toward that end, the Bar serves several functions, including: 1) promoting high standards of honor, integrity, professional conduct, professional competence, learning and public service among the members of the legal profession; 2) seeking to ensure the fair administration of justice for all; 3) helping lawyers serve a diverse community and 4) advocating for access to justice.”[3]

The statements in the April 2018 Bar Bulletin — both from the Bar itself and the Specialty Bar Associations — are ideological in their condemnation of white nationalism and violence; this is entirely germane to the Bar’s stated purposes. To the extent the Specialty Bar Associations mentioned Trump by name, that viewpoint helps all lawyers better understand how the people most directly affected by the President’s behavior perceive it. Such understanding improves the quality of legal services that we provide in a diverse community.

In the April 2018 Bar Bulletin, the Oregon State Bar proclaimed, “we are intent on standing in support and solidarity with those historically marginalized underrepresented and vulnerable communities who feel voiceless within the Oregon legal system.”[4] Sadly, the Board of Governors’ decision to refund the dues attributable to the publication of the Specialty Bar Associations’ statement has reneged on this commitment.

For a Better World,

National Lawyers Guild

Portland, Oregon Chapter

[1] Oregon State Bar Bulletin, “Be an Author,” April 2018 at 17.

[2] Oregon State Bar Bylaws, Article 1.2, available at: https://www.osbar.org/_docs/rulesregs/bylaws.pdf.

[3] Id.

[4] Oregon State Bar Bulletin, “Statement on White Nationalism and Normalization of Violence,” April 2018 at 42.

Testimony in Support of Care Not Cops: Mental Health Care Not Policing Campaign

Before the Budget Committee Public Hearing:

The National Lawyers Guild Portland Chapter and the National Lawyers Guild Lewis & Clark Law Student Chapter stand in support of the Care Not Cops: Mental Health Care Not Policing campaign and urge Portland City Council to reject the Mayor’s FY 18-19 Portland Police Bureau proposed budget.

The Mayor’s FY 2018-19 proposed budget represents the further criminalization of unhoused people in the name of “livability”; the implementation of a re-styled broken windows model of “community policing” which disproportionately targets poor communities, Black communities, and other communities of color; and a dangerous, increased investment in the failed practice of using police to respond to people experiencing mental health crises.

The proposed budget includes additional funds for “enhancing” police response to mental health crises—a practice that has proven to be not only inadequate and inappropriate but also inhumane. This further investment in funds is particularly unconscionable in light of the recent police killing of John Elifritz inside a homeless shelter. There is no indication that further funds for the police would improve the situation. A recent review of the police bureau found no difference in arrests between officers with or without Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training. Furthermore, the Mental Health Association of Portland found that the average number of police shootings has stayed the same or increased since the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement.

We support the Care Not Cops campaign’s call to decouple mental health crisis response from policing and instead invest in life-affirming responses and resources, including mental health services, health care, and funding for individuals and organizations that have existing relationships with targeted or vulnerable populations.

A budget is a moral document. Rather than adding 49 sworn officer positions and providing an additional $6 million to the police bureau, we call on City Council to reject the proposed budget, divest these resources from policing and criminalization, and instead invest in our communities. Ensure funding for YouthPass in this budget. Commit to investing in that which can truly bring about health and safety, such as housing for all, food security, mental and physical health care, education, and the creation of living wage jobs.

Letter in Opposition to Ryan Bounds Nomination to Ninth Circuit

Ahead of Ryan Bounds’s hearing before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on May 9th, we sent the following message to Senators Grassley and Feinstein.

RE: Opposition to Ryan Bounds Nomination to Ninth Circuit

Dear Senators Grassley and Feinstein:

Because we can never know what is in a person’s mind, we must rely on their deliberate actions to reveal their true beliefs. Ninth Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds’ calculated actions show that he is firmly clinging to deep-rooted prejudices that make him unfit to serve as an adjudicator of justice.

Ryan Bounds has not earned redemption for his prejudicial actions because he has not reformed his thinking. If Ryan Bounds had changed his thought, he would have shown curiosity about how he has harmed the communities he claims to care for, and apologized unequivocally for that harm. Mr. Bounds didn’t. Rather, Mr. Bounds’ actions in response to the uncovering of his hateful college publications were uncovered by the Alliance for Justice Fn.1—tokenizing marginalized people, dismissing and minimizing his egregious rhetoric, and exaggerating his pro bono affiliations— prove his true regret: publicly recording his abhorrent views before he was savvy enough to recognize the political consequences of such disclosure.

The most obvious evidence of Ryan Bounds’ deep-rooted prejudice is his blatant tokenizing of people of color and other marginalized people by asking them to write letters to prove that he is innocent by association. Mr. Bounds’ supporters conflate discrete experiences with gross generalizations, and erroneously assume that discrimination and racism only occur in individual interactions. Take, for example, the letter written by Mr. Bounds’ African-American friend from college, Kristina Gill. Fn. 2. In this letter, Ms. Gill states “I never saw bias, discrimination, disdain or dislike carried out in his behavior toward others nor in his decision-making.” Or the letter written by Courtney Angeli and David Lat Fn. 3 who say “We know he harbors no such insensitivity or hostility — and we speak as members of the supposedly maligned groups.” How do they know this? We cannot give this testimony much weight, especially considering the speakers’ lack of connection to Portland’s most marginalized communities. Mr. Bounds’ friends’ letters are also problematic because he uses them to trivialize his unacceptable articles. The letter from Ms. Angeli and Mr. Lat refers to such articles as “hyperbolic collegiate musings.” Ms. Gill refers to Mr. Bounds’ writings simply as “conservative.”

In addition, Ryan Bounds’ initial response to the exposure of his disturbing writings was one of dismissiveness and minimization. The subject line of Mr. Bounds’ initial response Fn 4 to the Alliance for Justice Report in an email to his fellow committee members of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee of the Multnomah Bar Association reveals the source of his true remorse: “apologies in advance for some embarrassing news.” Here, Mr. Bounds apologizes for the embarrassment of the news itself, not for the matter of which and the people to whom he should be apologizing. And the first line of his email reads: “Being nominated for judicial office is an honor, but it has its downsides-including having the ill-considered, tone-deaf, and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements of one’s youth unearthed and scrutinized.” Mr. Bounds goes on to call the report an “unpleasant reminder of my errors of nearly a quarter-century ago.” Are we to believe that Mr. Bounds forgot that he harbored racist, misogynistic views? And if so, how are we to believe that he has actually changed those views?

In Ryan Bounds’ subsequent resignation letter, Fn. 5 provided at the request of the MBA Committee, he continues to downplay his egregious rhetoric, calling it “poorly worded and ill-conceived pronouncements of a youth.” He goes on to describe in great detail the MBA Committee’s work, taking credit for projects that span well beyond his participation. In addition to being inaccurate, Mr. Bounds’ MBA Committee membership is not proof that he has changed. It so happens that Mr. Bounds is also a member of the extremely conservative Federalist Society which supports discrimination and white nationalists. For some examples of this group’s discriminatory views, see their article, “The ABA’s Garbled View of Free Speech” Fn. 6 and this Hatewatch article Fn. 7 on the Federalist Society’s debate on the Birthright Citizenship for Children of Illegal Immigrants. How are we to believe that Mr. Bounds’ Federalist Society membership has not influenced his MBA Committee participation?

The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild believes justice can only be attained when people of color and all other oppressed communities are more than mere afterthoughts. We expect our highest courts to administer justice equitably. Ryan Bounds would like us to believe that racism, sexual assault, anti-labor, and queer violence are excusable so long as one portrays them while they are young and naïve. He would like us to believe that a few people of color speak for all people of color. He would like us to believe that he hasn’t caused harm. We can’t do this without abandoning our values of justice and equity. We firmly oppose Ryan Bounds’ nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild

1 AFJ Snap Shot: Ryan Bounds

2 In support of Ryan Bounds: Letter to the editor

3 Ryan Bounds passes muster with those he supposedly maligned: Guest opinion

4 Bounds Email to MBA

5 Bounds Resignation from MBA ED&I

6 The ABA’s Garbled View of Free Speech