An anti-abortion street preacher who was barred this summer from Tom McCall Waterfront Park only to have a city hearings officer overturn the ban as unconstitutional is now suing the city in federal court, alleging a civil rights violation.
Mark Mayberry, of Riddle, says the city deprived him of his free speech rights when one of its park rangers ordered him to leave the park and issued a 30-day exclusion when he refused.
Mayberry is seeking $307,443 in damages in the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
City attorney Tracy Reeve declined comment, citing the pending litigation.
The suit says Mayberry is a Christian evangelist and activist who travels around Oregon to call for the abolition and criminalization of abortion in the United States.
On June 1, he was at the park holding an anti-abortion sign, passing out pamphlets and “engaging passersby in conversations about abortion and the gospel,” according to his lawyer, Ray Hacke.
While Mayberry was expressing “views that were undoubtedly controversial to some, his speech and conduct were civil, peaceful, and by no means incendiary,” Hacke wrote in the suit.
A ranger ordered Mayberry to leave the park, and when he declined, he was ordered not to return for 30 days. He was cited for harassment and failing to obey a park officer’s order.
Mayberry successfully challenged the citation and exclusion order before a city hearings officer. No city representative showed at the July 11 hearing.
Hearings Officer William Guzman found the city failed to meet its burden to support the exclusion and concluded it was based on “an unconstitutional application” of city code and state law.
Guzman found that Mayberry’s conduct at the park was protected free speech.
The clause in the harassment citation, accusing Mayberry of abusive words or gestures likely intended to provoke a violent reaction, was struck down in 2008 by the Oregon Supreme Court, which found the prohibition over broad and in violation of the state constitution, Guzman noted.
Guzman found Mayberry didn’t commit harassment, noting that Waterfront Park is a public forum and the government’s ability to restrict speech in a public park is extremely limited.
Mark Ross, spokesman for the Portland’s parks and recreation department, declined comment about the park ranger’s actions, referring all questions to the city attorney.
Mayberry has faced criticism before. In April, parents in Medford complained to city officials about the graphic images of aborted fetuses that Mayberry and others were displaying at a festival.