Oregon Court Allows Rule Banning Overnight Protests At Capitol

May 15, 2014

The Oregon Legislature has the right to ban protestors from using the capitol steps overnight. That's the upshot of a ruling Thursday by the Oregon Supreme Court. The case involved anti-war protesters speaking out against the deployment of Oregon National Guard troops to Iraq and Afghanistan back in 2009.

Michele Darr was among the protesters arrested for trespassing during a 2009 anti-war demonstration at the Oregon capitol.
Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Some of the protesters were arrested for trespassing when they refused to leave the front steps of the Oregon capitol overnight. They were accused of ignoring a new rule that banned demonstrations at the capitol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless the legislature is in session.

The ACLU of Oregon took on the case as a free speech issue. Their attorneys argued that other groups had been allowed to use the capitol grounds overnight. The ACLU's David Fidanque said legislative leaders cracked down because they didn't like the protesters’ message.

"We believe the rules were adopted to prevent this type of demonstration and in particular to end this particular demonstration," Fidanque said.

The Oregon Supreme Court said a ban on overnight demonstrations at the capitol does not violate free speech rights. But the court did say there was a question about whether the legislature had been selective about applying the rule to the anti-war protesters. And theoretically, legislative leaders could be asked to testify about whether they hand in enforcing the rule.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network