City Council to vote on ousting protesters from meetings

The ACLU has already come out against Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed new rules

Protesters disrupt City Council, Wednesday March 8, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a cancelled ACLU meeting, the Portland City Council will move forward to vote on new behavior rules for meetings that would allow authorities to oust rowdy protesters.

The ACLU has already come out against Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed new rules for city council meetings, saying the proposal has constitution problems, and it gives the presiding officer too much authority to decide who is violating the rules.

This all comes after demonstrators have disrupted a number of Portland City Council meetings. Wheeler’s proposed code of conduct for city council meetings will seek to bar that by making it easier for authorities to expel anyone getting rowdy and disrupting a meeting.

Protesters outside the City Council meeting, October 12 2016, (KOIN)
Protesters outside the City Council meeting, October 12 2016, (KOIN)

In December 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled against the extended eviction of Joe Walsh, a frequent witness who repeatedly berates the council at length. Simon based his ruling upholding Walsh’s First Amendment rights in part of the vagueness of the existing City Code governing exclusions. This new proposal was written to answer the judge’s concerns.

The proposed ordinance says such disruptions started before Wheeler was elected mayor but have increased since he took office. They included a confrontation inside city hall between police and demonstrators in October 2016 over the new police contract proposed by former Mayor Charlie Hales. The council ended up meeting behind closed doors to approve the contract.

On March 8, the city council delayed voting on the ordinance so Wheeler could have some time to speak with the ACLU concerning their opposition to his proposal. A spokesman for the mayor confirmed Wheeler was to meet with ACLU’s legal director on Tuesday at 4 p.m., but the meeting was later cancelled. The ACLU said its legal director’s flight was cancelled due to winter weather, and the organization asked to reschedule its meeting with Wheeler.

Wheeler’s spokesman said the mayor hasn’t rescheduled the meeting, and his ordinance will be brought forth for a vote on Wednesday.