PORTLAND — The city government last fall acknowledged it was wrong last year to ticket and ban from a downtown park a street evangelist for preaching there.
Several weeks ago, the city agreed to pay him $50,000 to settle the matter.
As reported by The Oregonian, Portland City Council on May 27 approved the settlement with Mark Mayberry, a resident of the southwest Oregon town of Riddle. Represented by Salem attorney Ray Hacke, Mayberry had sued the city in federal court for $300,000 in damages, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
Mayberry travels throughout the state to share the gospel and call for an end to abortion. On June 1, 2019, Mayberry was at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland holding a sign defending the unborn, passing out related tracts, and conversing with people about abortion and the gospel when a park officer ordered Mayberry to leave.
Asserting that he had a constitutionally protected right of free speech, Mayberry refused. The park officer then issued him a citation barring him from coming to the park for 30 days. The city also charged Mayberry with violating an ordinance by refusing to obey the officer’s orders, and also with violating a state harassment statute.
But Mayberry’s lawyers from the Pacific Justice Institute argued his actions didn’t fit the law’s definition of harassment, specifically using insulting or abusive language or acting to provoke a violent response. Mayberry’s peaceful actions were far from that, they said, and they appealed the matter to the city’s auditor’s office.
A city hearings officer ruled the issuance of the citation had indeed violated Mayberry’s free speech rights under both the state and federal constitutions, and Mayberry’s exclusion from the park was then declared invalid.
Randy Stenquist, a liability manager for the city, said Portland has since made changes in its training within the parks and police departments.