Archive | Cases

CLDC Defends Right to Protest at Federal Plaza 24 Hours a Day

US District Court Judge Coffin will be hearing arguments on Occupy Activist Beatrice Semple’s challenge to the constitutionality of her arrest 11/8/12 at 11:15 am US District Court in Eugene.  The Court will issue a written opinion so stay tuned.

Related Documents:
Decl. M. Broadhurst
Semple Mo.Dismiss
Semple 3127856 Response

Historic Right to Protest Case Filed in Oregon
Civil Liberties Defense Center fights agency on constitutionality of protest requirements at Federal Plaza

Eugene, OR—The Civil Liberties Defense Center, Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep (SLEEPS) and Occupy Eugene will host a press conference today to announce a second round of legal actions to challenge the unlawful exclusion, permitting requirements, and enforcement that violated citizens’ constitutional rights.  The Federal civil rights complaint and related motion for an emergency preliminary injunction, filed against the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) cites violations of plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment Rights, by enforcing permit and curfew restrictions at the Federal Plaza, a traditional public forum typically known as “the Plaza.” Currently protestors are demonstrating at the Plaza under threat of imminent arrest.

Lauren Regan, staff attorney for the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) who filed the lawsuit, represents members of Occupy Eugene including Plaintiff F. Emily Semple, arrested last July at the Plaza, and Terrill Purvis. The U.S. Attorneys office voluntarily dismissed Semple’s federal criminal case last week after Regan argued GSA unconstitutionally evicted Semple and OE from the Plaza. The Court appeared to agree with Regan’s arguments. When activists then returned to the Plaza on Dec. 13th, they were again threatened with arrest, and this lawsuit became necessary to put an end to these illegal government actions.

“We hope this case will renew the strong precedent in this country, to protect the First Amendment to the maximum extent possible. When one person’s rights are eroded, all of our rights are worn thin and made vulnerable,” said Regan. “It is only as a result of persistent vigilance in defending those rights, that they flourish–particularly in politically turbulent times like these.” According to the CLDC, if successful, the lawsuit will mandate the GSA to revise it’s permitting scheme in accord with constitutional law regarding First Amendment use of the Plaza and all other federal properties in the United States that they manage. The current GSA permitting process only authorizes use of the Plaza Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Accordingly, the GSA banned protest after 5 p.m. and on weekends, when most people are available to demonstrate.

Plaintiff Semple stated, “It is very unfortunate that our government apparently believes the First Amendment only applies to people during the workday. We hope to make it clear that our don’t end when the government goes home from work.”

The complaint cites that GSA’s enforcement places an undue burden on the people by requiring excessive permitting processes and denying Occupy permits in violation of the constitution. According to the complaint, the change in GSA policies were a response to the Occupy movement and may only be enforced on alleged members of OE, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“Even a single person must apply and be granted a permit before simply being present on the Plaza for First Amendment purposes,” said Regan. “These regulations place a serious prior restraint on those rights.”

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of the people to lawfully protest 24 hours a day on any subject whatsoever in a public forum such as the Plaza, including spontaneously. CLDC, Occupy Eugene and SLEEPS will continue to fight for the most expansive First Amendment rights and will not be silenced by persistent government repression.

Related Documents:

OE v. GSA complaint
OE v. GSA TRO MEMO

 

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CLDC Defends Josh Schlossberg

Two police officers with the Eugene Police Department confronted environmental activist Josh Schlossberg as he handed out flyers and information to interested passers-by on the public sidewalk in front of the Umpqua Bank. Mr. Schlossberg was providing information on the negative impacts of some of the business investments of the Bank on the local forests. After one of the officers decided everything was in order, an EPD sergeant with a history of questionable actions against activists and others, investigated Mr. Schlossberg’s public activities again. Mr. Schlossberg told the sergeant that he was recording their interaction with a handheld camera that recorded video as well. The sergeant confiscated Schlossberg’s camera and then employed excessive force to falsely arrest him for surreptitiously recording a police officer.

The CLDC filed a federal civil rights (§ 1983) lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Schlossberg against the sergeant, Eugene Police Department, and the City of Eugene for police misconduct. In addition to determining whether the officer used unlawful force against Mr. Schlossberg, his lawsuit also challenged whether the City of Eugene violated the rights of all citizens by maintaining a custom or policy of ratifying and condoning police misconduct through the internal affairs process (police policing themselves as a result of civilian complaints) by not holding officers accountable for their misconduct, and basically rubber-stamping their unlawful or unprofessional behaviors. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person, including municipalities who, under color of law, deprive another of his or her rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the US Constitution. Mr. Schlossberg claimed that the City maintained a custom that allowed members of the EPD to engage in misconduct.

On Monday, January 23rd, a federal jury ruled that Sergeant Solsbee used excessive force in an arrest of environmental activist Josh Schlossberg. The CLDC has been working tirelessly for years on Schlossberg’s case and is pleased with the verdict. We hope that this case will be a precedent in protecting the rights of activists to film police officers. We are also pleased to see that an officer’s excessive use of force goes punished and that an activist brutalized is awarded reparations.

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Mark Kemp v. Lane County and the City of Springfield

About the Case

News on the Kemp Case

Mentally ill man files suit in arrest by Jack Moran, The Register-Guard, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010, Page B4.

A Eugene attorney has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lane County and the city of Springfield on behalf of a mentally ill man who claims that law enforcement and county medical officials mistreated him and neglected his medical needs after a 2008 arrest.

In the suit, Mark Andrew Kemp asks a judge to award him unspecified monetary damages and require Springfield police and Lane County Jail officials to revise their policies regarding treatment of mentally ill criminal suspects.

Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court.

(Read the entire article at registerguard.com)

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Court Rules Oregon Forest Protester Law Is Unconstitutional

Today attorneys representing forest defenders in Oregon won a major victory at the Oregon Court of Appeals defending the constitutional right to protest by arguing that a state law is unconstitutional under the federal constitution. The Court struck down the statute it its entirety. The state statute at issue, ORS 164.886, “Interfering with Agricultural Operations,” was enacted in 1999 to discourage demonstrators from protesting against controversial timber sales in Oregon. It stated that if a person hindered, obstructed or impaired an agricultural operation they were guilty of a Class A misdemeanor crime and has been used to prosecuted dozens and dozens of nonviolent forest defense activists. The statute contained an exception to these prohibitions if the protesters were engaged in a labor dispute. Ninety-nine percent of all state prosecutions utilizing this statute were against non-violent protestors exercising their First Amendment rights. The Court ruled that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and struck the law in its entirety.

“This is a great victory for activists in Oregon and affirms that the Constitution is still alive and kicking!” said Lauren Regan, Staff Attorney and Director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. “In an era when activists are being maligned as ‘terrorists,’ it is very important that repressive laws like this one and other “ecoterror” laws are challenged and beaten from the law books as a patent disgrace to our constitutional rights and liberties. We are grateful to our courageous clients who placed their liberty on the line in defense of irretrievable forests, rivers and wildlife, and hope that this ruling will be viewed as an affirmation of the critical importance the right to dissent holds in our democracy.”

The CLDC argued, and the Court agreed, that “a person peacefully picketing against labor or logging practices on public or private land could, under the definitions [contained in the law], be attempting to obstruct an agricultural practice by another person on that person’s property by attempting to convince the person, the person’s employees, or the general public to alter the offensive practice” and that the law was thus facially unconstitutional in all applications.

In ruling that the entire statute was unconstitutional, the Court stated: “[H]ad the legislature known that a bill criminalizing all obstructions, impairments, and hindrances of agricultural operations also implicated serious constitutional questions, it would have chosen to avoid the issue entirely—particularly in light of the fact that the conduct at which the statute was primarily directed (vandalism, property destruction, etc.) was already prohibited by existing statutes.”

One of the appellants, George Sexton, a conservation director who was arrested at the infamous Biscuit timber sales added, “It is heartening that the 14th Amendment prohibits overzealous Josephine County prosecutors from making criminals out of courageous citizens who peacefully put their bodies between the log trucks and the illegal old-growth logging frenzy of public lands under the Bush Administration.”

Kudos to attorneys Lauren Regan, Misha Dunlap English, and Kenneth Krueshner for this hard fought victory.


Related PDF Links:
CLDC Ag Ops COA Decision
Ag Ops Appellant Brief Condensed Copy
Ag Ops Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss

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CLDC Defends the Ceremonial Rights Winnemem Wintu

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Winnemem Wintu 2012

In a major victory for the tribe, the Winnemem Wintu were finally given clearance to hold their coming of age ceremony in peace.

As a result of the incredible perseverance and unwavering commitment of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, along with the overwhelming show of solidarity that so many activists from around the country provided to the tribe, the US Forest Service had agreed to completely close the McCloud River for the 4 day ceremony June 29 – July 3, 2012.

The ceremony was held with minimal disruptions and no arrests. However, there was some harassment from the Forest Service and law enforcement, including the Chief receiving a citation. Why was she cited? For violating her own river closure!

Read more on the Tribe’s website.

After a Major Step Forward, It’s Not Over

Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and her nephew Arron Sisk were fasting for weeks, demanding that the Bureau of Indian Affairs  fully close the site for future Coming of Age ceremonies and protect the tribe’s girls and women from abuse and harassment from the general public.

While this one-time river closure was a significant step in acknowledging the tribe’s rights as Indigenous People, Randy Moore, Regional Forester said they can’t keep the general public from wandering through the ceremonial site because the tribe is not federally recognized.  If the tribe was federally recognized, then federal law would give the Forest Service the authority to close the area for the ceremony.  But, as it stands now, their hands are tied because of the BIA’s failure to include the tribe on their list.

The Winnemem Wintu, with support from allies, has seen amazing progress recently in dealing with the the federal government. Let’s keep the pressure on! Learn more about how you can show support during this pivotal time!

 

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