ACLU Oregon Annual Report 2020 Logo

LETTER FROM THE
EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR

Dear ACLU supporters,

What a year this has been. We fought against wildfires, police brutality, and a deadly pandemic. We fought for Black Lives to Matter, for the right to peaceful protest, and for every person to be counted in the current census.

Despite all the efforts to suppress, discredit, dispute, and discard votes; a free and fair election was conducted. Donald Trump will leave office. And still, we remain a very divided country. The work ahead is as essential as it is difficult. The damage done to our democracy must be repaired.

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The veneer of polite racism has been stripped away. There can be no denying this duality within our country—that the democratic institutions so many of us believe in also contribute to the oppression of so many Black, Brown, and Indigenous people living in America, living in Oregon. This oppression has been exposed—again—for a new generation to challenge and change. This is work we all must do every day, everywhere, for everyone.

Four years ago, many of you joined with the ACLU to resist. And together we have! We filed more than 400 lawsuits against the Trump administration’s policies. We have been relentless in our defense of basic human rights from assaults by this administration and others.

Four years ago, we also suggested that there was opportunity to make significant progress on civil rights here in Oregon. And, together, we delivered. We worked with some of the people most impacted in our criminal justice system and, together, we brought about significant changes in Oregon policies:

We shined a spotlight the tremendous power of district attorneys, and showed that accountability for these elected officials was necessary and possible;

  • With a broad coalition, we successfully reformed sentencing laws to create a more humane youth justice system that focuses on accountability for youth and safety for our communities;

  • We reduced criminal penalties for drug possession through the legislature, and last month Oregonians approved M110 to treat addiction as a public health issue.

  • Our work to better protect the thousands of people from COVID who are in our prisons and jails wasn’t as successful as it needs to be. And that doesn’t mean we will stop this work; it means we must continue.

The ACLU works on so many issues because all of these rights are fundamental to being human; to living with dignity; to thriving. Our rights are indivisible; and our work to protect and advance our rights is multi-faceted.

Most importantly, we are shifting how we do our social justice work. True social justice will only come by centering the lived experiences of BIPOC and other oppressed people.

This is how a more perfect union will be built by all of us, for all of us.

I hope you will look through this annual report highlighting some of the important work we were able to engage in this past year, thanks to your support. 

The ACLU’s work is not done. I hope you will stay with us as we enter 2021 ready to take on new, and many still unresolved, issues. 

With deep appreciation,

Jann Carson Signature

Jann Carson

Interim Executive Director

BLACK LIVES
MATTER
PROTESTS

The right to protest is a critical part of a healthy democracy. 2020 was the year Oregonians exercised that right more fervently than ever, with near daily protests since the end of May, when George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Heartbroken and anguished by the continued senseless loss of Black lives at the hands of police and years of systemic anti-Black racism, activists took to the streets to demand a different way of investing in public safety.

The ACLU of Oregon is committed to amplifying the Black Lives Matter movement and the need to divest from police and reinvest in communities. Our volunteer legal observers were on the streets day after day to ensure protest rights were being protected. Our legal observers witnessed and were subject to repeated and indiscriminate uses of force, teargas, and threats by local and federal law enforcement officers.

We filed lawsuits on behalf of protesters, street medics, legal observers, and journalists, and on behalf of environmental justice groups against the Department of Homeland Security for violating environmental law after unleashing an unprecedented amount of chemical weapons in Portland.

PROTESTERS


“We are protesting the police killing George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. That’s what brought us out to the streets. Our goal is to stop police abuses and murders, and that means that we have to defund them. That is what we are fighting for.”

—Plaintiff Mac Smiff,community leader who was shot in the head with an impact munition that knocked him to the ground and partially blinded him with paint.

PROTESTERS


“I still haven’t fully come to terms with what it means that I was kidnapped by my government. People need to know what happened to me and the government needs to be held accountable so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to someone else.”

—Mark Pettibone, 30, was abducted off the streets of Portland into an unmarked minivan by people in military fatigues later identified as federal agents. Mark wrote about his experience and why he teamed up with the ACLU for Buzzfeed

PROTESTERS


“We need to change the system and uplift Black voices. We have the right to demand change when the social contract has been violated and broken. I am fighting back because these federal agents violated my rights and tried to suppress our voices with excessive and disproportionate use of force against us. The administration needs to be held accountable for its egregious behavior.”

—Plaintiff Nichol Denison
, 39, U.S. Air Force veteran who was shot by federal agents

PROTESTERS

 

“The protests in Portland gave me a way to voice my concerns as a Black Oregonian. The protests were a place where my family found community. But the federal agents that came to Portland called us ‘thugs,’ and attacked protesters night after night. But the federal agents won’t stop us from working to make our city and state better for Black people.”

—Andre Miller, 36, father and facilities and warehouse manager. During the protests, Miller documented Black Lives Matters protests while providing volunteer crowd-safety and medic services for crowds that he repeatedly saw being subjected to unprovoked brutality by federal officers.

PROTESTERS

 

“At the ER, when I first had a chance to catch my breath and gather my thoughts, I realized: ‘My government shot me in the head. My own government.’ And then boom—I realized—this is maybe what it feels like for Black people vis-à-vis the police. As a white person, I have lived my adult life in the comfort that law enforcement is there to ‘help,’ is ‘on my side.’ And for just one night, I caught a little glimpse of what it feels like to be persecuted by the police.”

—Maureen (“Mo”) Healy, 52, history professor at Lewis & Clark College and chair of the history department who was shot in the head

PROTESTERS

 

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call this a constitutional crisis. In Portland, the First Amendment rights of our people to speak freely, to gather and air their grievances, were violently suppressed by an unwanted, uninvited and unauthorized paramilitary force. Black Lives Matter. Our Black neighbors, friends and family are valuable members of our community who deserve justice and equality.”

—James McNulty, 42, hospital administrator who was shot repeatedly with impact munitions and chemical weapons

PROTESTERS

 

“I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. If unchecked, the flagrant violations of our civil liberties in Portland will undermine our freedoms all across the country.”


—Chris David, 53, United States Naval Academy graduate, former member of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, and currently employed by the VA hospital in Portland as a clinical chemist who was beaten and attacked with chemical weapons by federal agents

PROTESTERS

 

“Protesting is supposed to be the bedrock of democracy, but when protests are about Black lives, it is shut down. The very idea that Black people deserve humanity and decency is something that police and federal law enforcement agencies are so opposed to that they’ve employed nearly lethal responses. Our government should not have come here to suppress this movement.”

—Shanice Clarke, Black Millennial Movement, a plaintiff.

The Black Millennieal Movement was created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and subsequent protests in Portland, seeking to uplift the concerns shared by many Black Millennials, including student debt, economic opportunity, housing and home ownership, and political representation. The group seeks to provide an alternate, younger voice from within the Black community and educate others about the disproportionate use of force used by law enforcement towards largely nonviolent protesters—a perspective that has not traditionally received media attention.

PROTESTERS

 

Plaintiff Rose City Justice is Black-led, BIPOC-supported, grassroots organization committed to unifying local activism efforts in response to historical racial inequities by the justice system. Its mission is to bring awareness to the community, to reform systems founded on inequitable and racist ideals, and to demand justice in a non-violent manner. Rose City Justice has organized peaceful protests in various neighborhoods in Portland, including ones in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center and adjacent to the Hatfield Courthouse and participated in the Black Lives Matter protests outside the Hatfield Courthouse.

MEDICS

“I filed this lawsuit because many people in this country, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, will never have their day in court. I feel it’s all the more important to use whatever resources and power I have to confront this abhorrent system, which allows people in America, primarily Black people, to be beaten and killed by police without consequence.”

—Michael Martinez
, a graduate student at OHSU who was arrested one night while packing up the OHSU medic tent after protesters were gassed and beaten.

 

MEDICS

“The first night I went to a protest I saw someone severely injured by police. As someone with EMT training, I knew how to help. Since then, I’ve volunteered as a medic almost every night to show my support for the protests.

“Black lives matter; my life matters. We have to keep saying it until people understand it. I act as a protest medic because I believe what people have to say is important, and no one should be forced to stop saying it with these protests.”

—Chris Wise, a volunteer medic who, while wearing clothes prominently displaying red crosses, has been attacked by police and federal agents with rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, pepper bullets, riot batons, tear gas, detention, and arrest.

MEDICS

“Every human being deserves help, but the federal agents showed no humanity or concern.”—Savannah Guest

“Who do you call to report this? Who can hold these agents accountable for misconduct?”—Christopher “Kit” Durkee

Savannah Guest and Christopher “Kit” Durkee were attacked by militarized federal agents while rendering aid to an incapacitated bystander. Video of federal agents brutalizing them shocked the nation.

JOURNALISTS


“I felt it to be my civic duty to use my skills and equipment to document this important moment in history. I was horrified and bewildered by what I witnessed. Portland’s police, who are sworn to protect the community and uphold the Constitution, were doing the opposite; violently suppressing the First Amendment rights of the people.”

—Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, freelance photographer who was shot multiple times in the back of his shirt marked “PRESS”

ENVIRONMENTAL

IMPACT


In an effort to violently suppress Portland protests over racist police brutality this summer and fall, federal agents illegally unleashed an unprecedented amount of dangerous chemical weapons in our communities, regularly filling downtown and the south waterfront neighborhoods with clouds of tear gas with little to no warning or justification. We teamed up with Cascadia Wildlands, Willamette Riverkeeper, and Markowitz Herbold to represent a broad coalition of environmental justice and public health organizations to hold the U.S. Department of Homeland Security accountable for violating federal environmental law.

IMMIGRANTS’
RIGHTS

Even as the federal government has continued to use dehumanizing and abusive tactics in the name of immigration enforcement, we’ve fought back—and won. We’ve won, in large part, because of the collaboration with community partners, activists, and our members who continue to show up for the rights of immigrants.

We know this fight isn’t over, and we have a long road ahead to address the harm the Trump Administration has inflicted. One thing is clear: led by Trump’s rhetoric and destructive policies, immigration and border patrol officers are not focused on national security. Rather, their policies are rooted in racism and xenophobia.

The path toward a more inclusive Oregon is long but it is necessary and just. We’re in this together and will continue to stand up in the courthouse, in the legislature, and in the streets with you until we have achieved it.

A step toward justice


“I will never forget that day. I feel like I am living it every day and can’t get away from it. It hit me really hard and it was obviously wrong. No one should have to go through this.”
 
—Isidro Andrade-Tafolla

 

Isidro Andrade-Tafolla was unlawfully detained by federal agents with ICE outside a Washington County courthouse in 2017. He is a U.S. citizen and the only resemblance he bore to the man ICE agents were looking for that day was the color of his skin. This kind of racial targeting cannot be tolerated.

The Oregon Supreme Court took action last November by banning courthouse arrests by ICE. And this year, we’ve made another step toward justice for Isidro by filing a federal lawsuit to hold the ICE agents accountable for their discriminatory behavior.

Our communities are safer when we all have access to the justice system, whether we’re accused, victims or witnesses of crime, or simply showing up to court to support a loved one, like Isidro. When ICE manipulates that system in order to arrest and deport our community members, they undermine the justice system’s ability to protect public safety.

A critical victory


“It was like a dream. I have waited so long for this. It shows that when you stand up for your rights, you can win.” —Maria Soto, White City, Oregon
 
Maria Soto was born in 1971 in the Los Angeles County Hospital in California to migrant parents. Even though Maria sent the government her original birth certificate, a state-issued certified copy of her birth certificate, her social security card, her driver’s license, and other documentation, she was denied a passport. We fought back through a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State, and nearly a year later, she finally received her passport.
 
The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies push an insidious message that people like Maria—people of color, people who speak a second language, people who come from immigrant families or communities—are not equals in our country or are somehow less American. We will continue to fight against these abuses, and demand a fair system for all.

Oregon Worker Relief Fund

 

Thousands of immigrant Oregonians are facing extreme economic hardship as a result of COVID-19, yet have been intentionally excluded from worker relief programs. The ACLU of Oregon supported the Oregon Worker Relief Fund to ensure that immigrant Oregonians have access to the basic support needed to keep our communities healthy and strong.
 
The Oregon Worker Relief Fund provides financial support directly to Oregonians who have lost their jobs yet are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status, and now face hunger, homelessness, and economic hardship. Donate to the Oregon Worker Relief Fund.
 
Many immigrants and refugees work in jobs that are key to the state’s prosperity including farm workers, food-processing workers, housekeepers, construction workers, landscapers, caregivers and day laborers. Workers without legal status typically carry out their work for low pay and, faced with job losses, have few resources to meet their basic needs during this crisis.

COVID-19
AND PRISONS

Over 14,000 Oregonians, many elderly and already in poor health, are currently confined in unhygienic, small, and densely populated jail and prison cells. We’re concerned for the health of people who are incarcerated, the people who work in Oregon’s facilities, and their families and communities who are at risk of being exposed.

All people, including people who are incarcerated, have the right to live in safe, sanitary conditions. By refusing to take action that will help protect the health of people who live and work in prisons, the State of Oregon is also compromising the health of surrounding communities.

Incarceration shouldn’t be a death sentence. Yet as of December 11, 18 people have died in Oregon’s prisons after contracting COVID-19.
Without action, the death toll will continue to rise, both inside and outside of prisons. This is an unacceptable and preventable tragedy. It’s critical that we keep up the pressure and call on Governor Brown and state officials to treat incarcerated individuals humanely.

Tell Governor Brown to take action now.

As the news spread about the presence of COVID-19 in Oregon communities in March, people living in prisons began reaching out to the ACLU of Oregon, fearful for their safety. We knew that people living in congregate settings were at particularly high risk and of those, incarcerated individuals have the least agency in changing their living conditions. We partnered with organizations such as Beyond These Walls, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, Partnership for Safety and Justice, and Disability Rights Oregon to begin advocating for people who could least advocate for themselves.

We were relieved to see county jails responding quickly by safely transitioning many people back into the community. Some jails reduced their populations by 50 percent or more.

The ongoing challenge, however, is persuading our state government to similarly reduce the prison population to allow for physical distancing and public health safety both inside and outside prisons.

To support as many people as possible, we distributed template documents to over 400 people in prison that they could easily customize and file with the court to argue for early release on the basis of health and safety risks. The ACLU of Oregon also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in 14 cases of people in prison, arguing for their constitutional rights to a safe living environment and adequate medical care.

“My brother does not deserve to die because of a parole violation. What he really needs is compassion, treatment and counseling. There are thousands like Danny today, who don’t pose a threat to public safety yet are facing undue risks to their health being confined in overpopulated prisons. This is a violation of their human rights.”
—Mereida Nunely, in an open letter to Governor Brown

Each person represents a unique story, including Danny Alcazar, who is medically vulnerable and in prison due to a parole violation associated with a drug relapse. His sister, Mereida Nunely, has fought for his release.

CONNECTING VIRTUALLY

Even though we can’t be together due to the pandemic, ACLU supporters from across the state have gathered with us online for monthly webinars to dig into our issue areas, hear from local experts, and take action.

JUSTICE FOR ALL CONFERENCE

 
Thanks to hundreds of ACLU supporters, our Justice for All 2020 Statewide Membership Conference was a success! We heard an inspiring speech from ACLU National Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Amber Hikes. Our keynote speaker, Walidah Imarisha, grounded us in Oregon’s Black History by examining institutional white supremacy and centering the resistance of Black communities and other communities of color as active change makers. The keynote highlighted how history, politics, and culture have shaped—and will continue to shape—the landscape not only for Black Oregonians, but all Oregonians. And our panels on police divestment and immigrants’ rights were truly inspiring.

BY THE
NUMBERS

REQUESTS FOR HELP

LEGAL REQUEST VOLUNTEER HOURS

ACTIVE CASES

Cooperating Attorney hours

VOLUNTEER LEGAL OBSERVERS

MOBILE JUSTICE APP DOWNLOADS

# of people with COVID-19 in Oregon prison*

# OF BRIEFS FILED FOR PEOPLE IN PRISON

*As of publication. This statistic is updated frequently at https://www.oregon.gov/doc/covid19/Pages/covid19-tracking.aspx

FINANCE

REVENUE

EXPENSES

WAYS TO GIVE

People across Oregon are coming together to stand up for what they believe is right. Take your stand—help us as we continue to hold our leaders and institutions accountable to the promises of democracy.

Put your Donor Advised Fund to use protecting civil liberties and civil rights by recommending gifts to the ACLU of Oregon. Your financial advisor or fund manager can help you make that grant to the ACLU of Oregon.

Maximize your gift! Thousands of companies, small and large, have Matching Gift programs that will match one-for-one, or even double, tax-deductible contributions made by their employees. Your employer may be one of them! If your company has a Matching Gift program, all you to have to do is obtain a matching gift form from your personnel office or matching gift coordinator, fill it out completely and send it along with your contribution to: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon, P.O. Box 40585, Portland, OR 97240.

CALL US!


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ACLU Foundation of Oregon
PO Box 40585
Portland, OR 97240

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