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Medford, Jackson County face lawsuits over arrests in homeless sweep


MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Eight people arrested by the Medford Police Department during a recent homeless camp sweep say they plan to sue the city, its police department and Jackson County.

Attorney Justin Rosas, who represents the arrestees, called the arrests unconstitutional, disputing the park was ever closed to the public to justify trespassing charges.

In a statement, and in tort claims obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Rosas said arrestees were denied medication, harassed and held for hours after posting bail at the Jackson County Jail. The Associated Press has emailed county Sheriff Nathan Sickler seeking comment.

Rosas said the lawsuit’s goal is to provoke better treatment of people living outside in southern Oregon.

Around 8 a.m. on Sept. 22, about two dozen Medford police officers evicted people who had set up camp at the city’s Hawthorne Park.

Police arrested 11 people, including Jefferson Public Radio reporter April Ehrlich. Most were cited for trespassing, except two who were arrested on outstanding warrants and Ehrlich, who also faces charges of interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest.

Ehrlich’s attorney, Stephen Houze, denied the allegations. Houze said it’s “our position that (Ehrlich) did not violate any laws and was fully within her rights of the First Amendment to perform her duties as a journalist at the scene.”

Medford officials deny closing the park was unlawful. Deputy city attorney Eric Mitton said City Manager Brian Sjothun ordered the park closed, citing a provision in the city charter that says the manager “shall have general supervision over all city property.”

“I would say generally that we consider the closure of Hawthorne Park to all individuals for health and safety reasons to be a lawful closure of the park,” Mitton said.

In a statement, Rosa and his clients said they don’t believe that section of the city charter allows the closure of a park..

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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The Associated Press


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