Oregon Governor Kate Brown has accused federal agents in unmarked cars who allegedly detained protesters in Portland with “blatant abuse of power.”
Federal officers, deployed by US President Donald Trump, also fired tear gas and less lethal ammunition at a crowd of protesters.
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called the protesters “violent crowds.”
Activists protest against police brutality since the murder of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.
An Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) report contained detailed accounts of witnesses who had seen federal police in camouflage jump out of unmarked vehicles, catch protesters without explanation and leave.
Last week saw a violent escalation between protesters and federal agents, deployed two weeks ago by Trump to appease civil unrest.
Since at least July 14, reports the OPB, federal agents have been jumping out of unmarked vehicles throughout the city and catching demonstrators without reason.
Video verified by the broadcaster shows a protester, Mark Pettibone, describing how, on July 15, he was “essentially thrown” into a van containing armed people in bulletproof vests.
Mr Pettibone said he was taken to a holding cell in a federal courthouse, where he read his arrest rights. After refusing to answer questions, he was released without any summons or record of arrest.
According to the OPB, federal agents have so far charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests.
Some were held in the federal courthouse that officers were sent to protect, but others were seized from streets away from federal property, the Associated Press reports.
What did the Trump administration say?
Arrived Thursday in the city to meet the federal police, the acting secretary of Homeland Security defended the agents against the “anarchists” gathered.
In a statement of nearly 1,700 words, Mr. Wolf accused state and city authorities of failing to “restore order”. He said their response had “emboldened the violent crowd as it exacerbated the violence day after day.”
“The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 consecutive days,” he wrote.
“Every night, violent anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the courageous law enforcement officers who protect them.
Mr. Wolf’s comments echo those of Mr. Trump. This week, the president applauded the efforts of federal agents in Portland, saying the officers had done a “great job.”
“Portland was totally out of control, and they came in, and I guess we have a lot of people in jail right now,” he said at a press conference Monday. “We repressed him very well, and if he does it again, we will repress him very easily. “
What is the reaction?
The Democratic Governor of the Western US State has accused the president of using brutal tactics to score political points.
Arresting people without probable cause, Ms. Brown spokesman Charles Boyle said on Friday is “of grave concern and a violation of their civil liberties and constitutional rights.”
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler and other local officials said they did not ask federal officials for help and asked them to leave.
“Keep your troops in your own buildings or get them out of our city,” said Wheeler on Friday.
The United States Civil Liberties Union also condemned the agents’ reported actions.
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grabbing someone on the street, we call it a kidnapping,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “These actions are downright unconstitutional and will not go unanswered. “
Who are the federal agents?
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has confirmed that it was responsible for at least one of the detentions.
The agency told the Daily Caller it had reason to believe the individual assaulted officers during the protests and vandalized federal property, so they “quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning. pushed ”.
“Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland for the past few weeks with the deliberate purpose of damaging and destroying federal property, as well as injuring federal officers and agents,” a CBP spokesperson told media. Americans. “These criminal actions will not be tolerated. ”
Nation magazine reports that the CPB cited its authority as part of the Protecting American Communities Task Force (Pact).
The pact was put in place last month by DHS in response to Mr. Trump’s executive order to protect U.S. memorials, which included heavy penalties for anyone damaging a monument.