ACLU Of Oregon Files Lawsuit Over Breakup of Demonstration During 2004 Bush Visit to Jacksonville
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDFORD, OR — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a class action lawsuit today against the U.S. Secret Service, the Oregon State Police, the Jackson County Sheriff and the Jacksonville Police Department, charging them with violating the constitutional rights of protesters when they forcibly broke up a peaceful demonstration in October 2004 during a visit to Jacksonville by President George W. Bush.
The ACLU said that both pro-Bush and anti-Bush demonstrators gathered peacefully to express their views near the Jacksonville Inn on October 14, 2004, but an interagency police squad, at the request of the Secret Service, moved in only on the portion of the crowd containing anti-Bush demonstrators.
“Despite the fact that both pro and anti-Bush demonstrators were within the same approximate distance to where the president was eating dinner, the Secret Service—and local police—chose to discriminate against those opposed to the President,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. “There was no security threat to the president and no justification for using force against peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.”
Police used clubs and pepper spray bullets to forcibly move the anti-Bush demonstrators several blocks from the Jacksonville Inn, even though organizers of the protest earlier had cleared their protest plans with Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters. The protesters included seniors and families with small children.
ACLU volunteer attorney Ralph Temple of Ashland said the actions in Jacksonville are part of an ongoing nationwide pattern by the Secret Service of keeping anti-administration demonstrators further away from the president than pro-administration demonstrators or the general public.
“The Secret Service claims their policies prevent them from acting on the basis of politics, but the truth is that they have repeatedly discriminated against anti-administration protesters based solely on the content of their political views,” said Temple. “One of the major goals of this suit is to force the Secret Service to respect the constitutional rights of demonstrators when there is no security reason to move protesters out of the sight and hearing of the President.”
The lawsuit seeks money damages plus an injunction to prevent similar constitutional violations from occurring in the future. In particular, the ACLU seeks to prevent the defendants from excluding or removing a lawful assembly of people from areas where other unscreened members of the public are allowed to congregate or be present, and excluding or removing anti-government demonstrators from areas where pro-government demonstrators are allowed to be present.
The ACLU is also asking the court to prohibit federal, state and local agencies from using riot-geared police, excessive force, non-lethal force or chemical agents against nonviolent demonstrators.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Medford on behalf of seven named individuals as representatives of the entire group of approximately 200 demonstrators whose rights were violated, plus the Jackson County Pacific Green Party. The seven individual plaintiffs are Michael Moss and Lesley Adams of Jacksonville; Beth Wilcox of Shady Cove; Richard Royer of Trail; and Shelley Elkovich, Anna Boyd and Lee Frances Torelle of Ashland.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the U.S. Secret Service, its director, Ralph Basham, three individual Secret Service agents, Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe, the city of Jacksonville, Oregon State Police Superintendent Ron Ruecker, the state of Oregon, two individual state police officers, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters, Jackson County, and unknown municipalities and their police commanders who may have participated in the police action.
Fidanque said that the ACLU has assembled a highly experienced team of volunteer lawyers to handle the case, including lead attorney Martha Walters of the firm of Walters Chanti & Zenache of Eugene, Thane Tienson of the firm of Landye Bennett Blumstein of Portland and Ralph Temple of Ashland who is the former Legal Director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area in Washington, D.C. Also assisting in the case will be Arthur Spitzer, the current Legal Director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.
The legal complaint is available online at: www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/26078lgl20060706.html
A map of Jacksonville showing the location of the protesters is available online at www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/26081lgl20060706.html
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