Federal court to review 'protest bans' in Portland arrests

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Federal officers advance on members of the "Wall of Moms" group during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

U.S. court officials in Oregon are reviewing bans on future protesting that were placed on some people arrested during protests in Portland after some raised concerns that the prohibitions violated the First Amendment.

“We're reviewing every case again right now and looking at the wording of some of the conditions,” Brian Crist, chief pretrial services officer for the U.S. District Court in Portland, said Wednesday. “A lot of this I think will be resolved.”

Crist said he couldn't comment on individual cases, but he noted the court looks at each defendant individually and doesn't have “blanket conditions” that are placed on everyone.

Portland has seen nightly protests for more than two months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The unrest intensified after federal agents were dispatched to protect a downtown U.S. courthouse.

The protest bans, first reported by ProPublica, were imposed in at least a dozen cases — most of them involving misdemeanor charges of failing to obey a lawful order. Defendants had to agree to the prohibitions in order to be released from jail while they await trial.

Some of the protest bans were hand-written in the court documents, others were typed out: “Defendant may not attend any other protests, rallies, assemblies or public gatherings in the state of Oregon,” many of the release documents read.

Several experts have raised concerns that the bans violate the U.S. Constitution's protections of free speech.

“I can't believe that they think this is constitutional,” said Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It's really broad and it's hitting at something that is constitutionally protected.”