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Judge Rules ‘Street Medics’ Must Disperse During Portland (OR) Protests

File photo/Adam Mason

Self-described “street medics” do not have special rights beyond general demonstrators and must leave the area when police declare an unlawful assembly or riot, a federal judge ruled this week.

The medics may continue to protest and provide medical aid during the protests, ruled U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut. The Oregonian reported Immergut ruled the medics do not have a unique status under the First Amendment that lets them ignore a lawful order.

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The demonstrations started in late May after the death George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Thousands of demonstrators turn out nightly – with some hurling fireworks, rocks, ball bearings and bottles at police. Authorities responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades.

Four street medics had sued the city, arguing Portland police used excessive force and unfairly arrested them while wearing red crosses on their clothes or helmets.

“Everyone who attends a protest is engaged in protected speech,” said Rian Peck, an attorney representing the street medics. “Our clients protest by rendering medical aid. That is their own form of free speech and their interests are so much stronger here because they are facilitating the protest.”

William Manlove, Portland’s senior deputy city attorney, said the street medics are still allowed to wear red medical crosses and render first aid to those in need.

“What the city is saying, when there’s a riot or dispersal orders, they need to comply,” he said. “They can provide that care elsewhere. They don’t need to be right there in the middle.”