Wolfe v. City of Portland

CREEC, along with co-counsel Disability Rights Legal Center and Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP are working on a case representing a group of disabled individuals who have been protesting racist policing in Portland Oregon since the murder of George Floyd in May, 2020.  The protesters are challenging 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.

Photograph of a protest with three individuals in the center of the photo. They are Black, feminine-presenting individuals wearing face masks.
Image source: BETH NAKAMURA

Our clients and thousands of protesters in Portland have been subjected to violence on the part of law enforcements for months. Police forces 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.

In November 2020, CREEC and co-counsel filed a complaint 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. In February 2021, we filed a motion for preliminary injunction to curtail these discriminatory and unconstitutional practices. 

The preliminary injunction requested an order that Defendants:

  1. Provide effective communication, such as ASL interpreters or visual messaging system, to deaf or hard of hearing people when conveying orders or directions;
  2. 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;
  3. Inform people attending protests of accessible avenues to exit the area before taking more extreme actions to disperse a crowd;
  4. 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;
  5. Stop using strobe lights, particularly against protesters with photosensitive epilepsy; and
  6. Stop separating people with disabilities from their aides, interpreters, sighted guides and/or service animals.

Through this case, CREEC is working to ensure that disabled people can continue to play a vital role protesting police brutality and violence against people of color.

Relevant documents: