PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mark Mayberry was at Portland’s Waterfront Park on June 1, passing out gospel tracts and talking to people about religion on that Saturday. He was also holding an anti-abortion sign, when he said a city employee shut him down and violated his First Amendment rights. Mayberry has now filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland, asking for at least $307,000. His lawyer also wants a federal judge to penalize the city for violating a previous court order that protects street preachers.
“While Plaintiff expressed views that were undoubtedly controversial to some, his speech and conduct were civil, peaceful, and by no means incendiary,” wrote Mayberry’s lawyer Ray Hacke.
Hacke is a Salem attorney who works for the Sacremento, California-based Pacific Justice Institute. According to its website, the legal defense organization specializes in cases of religious freedom, and does it for free.
The lawsuit said an employee with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department ordered Mayberry to leave, but when Mayberry said he had the constitutional right to stay and continue his preaching the employee wrote him a ticket for “failure to obey a park officer” and excluded him from Waterfront Park for 30 days. The citation also accuses Mayberry of harassment for speaking to people in the park.
Mayberry, 59, who lives in the southern Oregon town of Riddle and works as an electrician, appealed the ticket to the Portland City Auditor. The lawsuit says the City did not send a lawyer to argue its side of the case during a hearing July 11. The lawsuit says the auditor threw out the ticket. ”Despite being cleared to resume free speech activities at Waterfront Park without fear of penalty, Plaintiff has not returned to the park – largely due to well-founded fears that he will be cited again,” wrote Hacke.
In addition to money for mental and emotional distress, the lawsuit asks the Federal Court to award Mayberry more money by penalizing the city for violating a 2006 court order, barring the city from restricting free speech at public events.
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a permanent injunction prohibiting (the City) from removing from the public square speakers engaged in lawful free speech activities,” wrote Hacke.
KOIN 6 News asked the City Attorney’s Office for a statement. ”We have not been served, but we do not comment on pending litigation,” said Kim Sneath, City Attorney of Portland Office Administrator.