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Portland Police Declare a ‘Riot’

A federal law enforcement officer, deployed under the Trump administration's new executive order to protect federal monuments and buildings, uses tear gas during a protest over racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 17, 2020.

Police in Portland, Oregon, declared a riot late Saturday after protesters broke into the Portland Police Association building and started a fire. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Protesters also took down a fence just hours after it had been placed around the federal courthouse in Portland. The fence was put in place to “de-escalate” tensions between protesters and law enforcement officials, the U.S. Attorney’s office said on Twitter.

There have been daily protests around the federal courthouse in Portland since May 25 when George Floyd, a Black man, died in Minneapolis after a white police officer held him down. Anti-racism protests quickly erupted in Minneapolis and spread to other U.S. cities, such as Portland, and to other countries.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer issued a statement late Saturday criticized the actions of federal officials in detaining and teargassing protesters: “Last month, the Administration tear-gassed peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C. Now, videos show them kidnapping protesters in unmarked cars in Portland – all with the goal of inflaming tensions for their own gain. While Portland is the President’s current target, any city could be next.”

A banner against the presence of federal law enforcement officers is pictured on a fire escape in downtown Portland, Oregon, July 17, 2020.
A banner against the presence of federal law enforcement officers is pictured on a fire escape in downtown Portland, Oregon, July 17, 2020.

The statement went on to say, “The House is committed to moving swiftly to curb these egregious abuses of power immediately.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon on Friday called actions of federal officers against protesters in Portland “flat-out unconstitutional.”

“What is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the United States,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of ACLU Oregon. “Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping.”

Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli speaking on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Friday said federal agents had used unmarked vehicles to pick up people in Portland. But he said it was done to keep officers safe and away from crowds and to move detainees to a "safe location for questioning."

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday he wants President Donald Trump to remove the militarized federal officers that have been deployed to the city. “Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city,” Wheeler said following reports that the officers had apprehended people in Portland who were not on federal property.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for detaining people without probable cause.