CREEC and co-counsel represent a group of disabled individuals who have been protesting racialized police violence in Portland Oregon since the murder of George Floyd in late May, 2020. These brave and righteous plaintiffs challenge law enforcement practices that discriminate against them on the basis of disability, exclude them from Portland’s ostensible protection of free speech, and chill their exercise of First Amendment rights.
In Portland, police have used strobe lights on protesters with epilepsy, separated disabled protesters from service animals and human assistants, and rely heavily on verbal announcements that are not accessible to Deaf protesters and do not contain sufficient information for blind protesters to attempt to comply.
Last November, CREEC, the Disability Rights Legal Center, and the Portland law firm of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution against the City of Portland as well as other jurisdictions whose law enforcement personnel took part in these violations.
Last week, CREEC and co-counsel filed a motion for preliminary injunction requesting an order that the defendants:
- Provide effective communication, such as ASL interpreters or visual messaging system, to deaf or hard of hearing people when conveying orders or directions;
- Stop “bull-rushing” into crowds of protestors, as this practice does not provide people with disabilities adequate time or directions to comply with law enforcement’s orders;
- Inform people attending protests of accessible avenues to exit the area before taking more extreme actions to disperse a crowd;
- Stop using chemical munitions, such as tear gas, that negatively affect people across Portland with respiratory and inflammatory disabilities, and are poisonous to service animals;
- Stop using strobe lights, particularly against protesters with photosensitive epilepsy; and
- Stop separating people with disabilities from their aides, interpreters, sighted guides and/or service animals.
People with disabilities have a long and successful history of protest, from the 28-day sit-in leading to the promulgation of the first Section 504 regulations to the “Capitol Crawl” that was one of the key moments in the push for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. CREEC is working to ensure that disabled people can continue to play a vital role protesting police brutality and violence against people of color.