PORTLAND, Oregon – Militarized federal agents deployed by the President to Portland, Oregon again fired tear gas at protesters overnight as the city mayor demanded that the agents be removed and that the Attorney General of the state has undertaken to seek a restraining order against them.
Federal agents, some wearing camouflage uniforms and others wearing dark Homeland Security uniforms, used tear gas at least twice to break through the crowd Friday night, The Oregonian / OregonLive reported.
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been a nighttime feature of deeply liberal Portland since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25. President Donald Trump spoke out against the mess and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf criticized the protesters as “anarchist anarchists” during a visit. to the city, helping to make clashes between police and protesters a national goal.
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. 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.
The agents’ actions sparked outrage from elected officials and civil liberties groups, with Mayor Ted Wheeler demanding at a press conference Friday: “Keep your troops in your own buildings or get them out of our city.” “
Democrat housekeeper Kate Brown said Trump is looking for a confrontation in the hopes of gaining political points elsewhere and diverting attention from his widespread response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Civil Liberties Union on Friday sued the Department of Homeland Security and Marshals Service on behalf of reporters and legal observers who had been hit by tear gas and rubber bullets, adding federal agencies to a lawsuit that the The organization had already taken action against the local police.
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly catching someone on the street, we call it an abduction,” said Jann Carson, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Friday night that she also pursues homeland security and service to the marshals. She said she was looking for a temporary restraining order to “immediately prevent the 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 an emailed statement. “They not only prevent people from asserting their First Amendment rights from peaceful protest. They also create a more volatile situation on our streets.
Even local authorities in the US Department of Justice have raised eyebrows at the tactic. US prosecutor Billy Williams in Portland noted that for more than 50 nights, officers were faced with difficult circumstances, repelling demonstrators who attempted to enter the federal courthouse or who fired commercial fireworks. But he said on Friday that he had asked the DHS Inspector General to investigate reports that agents had arrested people without probable cause.
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.
Early Saturday, after Portland police declared the gathering illegal, federal officers and local police simultaneously advanced on protesters to clear the streets. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell told reporters on Friday that his officers were in contact with federal agents, but neither was monitoring the actions of the others.
Federal authorities have charged more than a dozen people with crimes related to the protests so far, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
One video showed two people wearing helmets and green camouflage clothing with “police” badges grabbing a person on the sidewalk, handcuffing them and taking them into an unmarked vehicle while refusing to identify themselves.
Customs and border protection said in a statement that their agents had information that the person in the video was suspected of assaulting federal agents or destroying federal property.
“Once the CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent crowd marched towards their location. For everyone’s safety, CBP officers quickly moved the suspect to a safer location, “said the agency. However, the video does not show any crowds.
In another case, Mark Pettibone, 29, said a van drove him around 2 a.m. on Wednesday and four or five people came out “as if they had been deployed in a war in the Middle East.”
Pettibone told The Associated Press he got on his knees as the group approached. They dragged him into the van without identifying himself or answering his questions and slipped his beanie over his eyes so he couldn’t see, he said.
Pettibone said he was placed in a cell but allowed to leave after asking for a lawyer.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after the protesters,” tweeted US Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.