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Oregon Legislators Are Taking a Closer Look at a Law That Allows Police to Declare Unlawful Assemblies

In Oregon, a law currently on the books that allows police officers to declare unlawful assemblies is now being examined by our legislators.

During the many protests of last year, police officers have had authority to disband assemblies which they deem unlawful. Concern has arisen that this practice violates the Constitutional right of protesters to express themselves and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Upon issuance of such a dispersal order, if citizens do not comply with law enforcement on the scene, they may be arrested, shot with rubber bullets or tear gassed. Under this law, police are given the power to carry out such actions, despite instances of excessive force hampering the people’s First Amendment right of free speech and peaceful assembly.

Not only does this law allow law enforcement to end any protest they see fit, but police or sheriff’s deputies are also allowed to intervene in any protest to its dispersal, as long as five or more citizens are posing a threat. Many believe that this unfair use of police discretion led to more destruction and violence than the Black Lives Matter protests themselves.

Giving this reviewable power to the police is especially prone to abuse when we remember that many of the protests have been directed at redressing police brutality itself.

According to the US Crisis Project, a high percentage of racial justice protests regarding the death of George Floyd were lawful and peaceful, however authorities still interfered with these non-destructive gatherings. These intrusions resulted in many arrests, injuries, and cause many to believe that systemic racism was a catalyst for many instances of police violence.

Finally, this law is receiving closer examination by the the House Judiciary Committee. Evidence is creating the possibility that this law may be repealed, as in many cases it the harm exceeds the dubious benefits. It can be hoped, with this law possibly being repealed, there will be less systemic racism and more instances for citizens to peacefully protest injustice.

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