“Blatant abuse of power”: this is why authorities are fighting over Portland protests
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality have taken place every day in Oregon’s largest city since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25.
US President Donald Trump spoke out against the mess, and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf criticized the protesters as “lawless anarchists” during a visit to the city.
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Before the aggressive language and action of federal officials, the unrest had frustrated Mayor Ted Wheeler and other local authorities, who said that a small group of violent activists were stifling the message of peaceful demonstrators in the city. But Wheeler said the federal presence in the city was now exacerbating a tense situation and told them to leave.
“Keep your troops in your own buildings, or take them out of our city,” Wheeler said Friday.
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Friday evening, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued Homeland Security and the Marshals Service in federal court. The complaint says unidentified federal agents grabbed people on the streets of Portland “without warning or explanation, without a warrant and without providing any means of determining who is leading this action.” ”
Rosenblum said she was seeking a restraining order to “immediately stop federal authorities from illegally detaining Oregonians.”
“The current escalation of fear and violence in downtown Portland is driven by federal law enforcement tactics that are completely unnecessary,” Rosenblum said in a statement.
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The administration has enlisted federal agents, including the US Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite team of US customs and border protection personnel based on the US-Mexico border, to protect federal property.
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But Oregon Public Broadcasting reported this week that some officers were driving in unmarked vans and ripped off protesters on streets not near federal property, without identifying themselves.
Tensions also escalated after a marshal’s service officer fired a less lethal shot in the head of a protester on July 11, seriously injuring him.
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On Friday night, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil outside the downtown justice center, which is sandwiched between two federal buildings, including a courthouse, The Oregonian / OregonLive reported. Across the street, dozens of other protesters entered two recently closed city parks after dismantling chain-link fences that blocked access.
Federal agents came out of a nearby office building and used impact ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas to clean up the area, the news agency reported. He said his journalists had not observed any incidents that could have encouraged the use of weapons.
Federal officers fired tear gas again just before midnight after a few protesters placed dismantled fences in front of plywood gates covering the entrance to the federal courthouse.
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Early Saturday, Portland Police declared the gathering illegal, claiming protesters stacked fences outside the exits of the Federal Courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center and then set off fireworks at the center of justice.
Federal officers and local police then simultaneously advanced on the protesters to clear the streets, making arrests while the protesters threw bottles and pieces of metal fence over the police, said the Portland police station. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell told reporters on Friday his officers were in contact with federal agents, but neither controlled the actions of the others.
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The overnight action by Portland police was condemned by a prominent member of city council. Jo Ann Hardesty said on Saturday that local police “joined the aggressive crackdown on the peaceful protest”.
Hardesty, who said she was speaking downtown during the protest on Friday evening, criticized Wheeler, telling the mayor that he needed better control over local law enforcement. Hardesty, who oversees the city’s fire department and other first responder agencies, said in an open letter to Wheeler if “you can’t control the police, give me the Portland police station.” “
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In a statement Saturday, Portland police said that in responding to the overnight protests – which included people launching projectiles at them – some federal agencies have taken action “under their own supervision and direction.”
Portland police said city officials arrested seven people and one officer was slightly injured.
The statement said city police support the peaceful protests and that as of Saturday night, Department of Homeland Security police will not be working in the Portland Police Incident Command Center.
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