A U.S. judge has ruled against the (western U.S.) state of Oregon, which sought to restrain federal officers’ actions during daily protests in Portland that have often spiraled into violence.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled Friday that the state lacked standing to sue on behalf of protesters. The state lawsuit sought to restrict federal agents' actions when they arrest people, including prohibiting federal agents from detaining protesters without probable cause.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s lawsuit accused federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause and using excessive force. She sought a temporary restraining order to “immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians.”
David Morrell, an attorney for the U.S. government, called the motion “extraordinary” and told the judge during a hearing this week that it was based solely on “a few threadbare declarations” from witnesses and a Twitter video. Morrell called the protests “dangerous and volatile.”
Friday’s ruling comes a day after a different federal judge blocked U.S. agents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at demonstrations. That case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
Despite the judge’s ruling, thousands of protesters took to the streets Friday night near Portland’s Hatfield Federal Courthouse, facing off against the federal officers stationed there.
The Associated Press reports that several organized groups participated in the demonstration, including Healthcare Workers Protest, Teachers against Tyrants, Lawyers for Black Lives and the “Wall of Moms.”
The courthouse protesters chanted, “Black Lives Matter” and “Feds go home.”
The protesters shook the fence that surrounds the courthouse and threw fireworks and glass bottles toward the building.
The federal officers responded with tear gas and flash bangs, according to AP.
Earlier this week, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was among a group of protesters who were tear-gassed when federal agents broke up a protest at the federal courthouse.
Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf has insisted that federal agents are not making the situation worse, and said Wheeler legitimized criminality by joining demonstrators, whom President Donald Trump has called “anarchists and agitators."
The New York Post reported that White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that three federal agents were “likely left permanently blinded” by lasers used by protesters. She also said two other agents were injured.
"It’s got a potential to have deadly impact — deadly impact, and I’m not being hyperbolic," said Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan told Fox News.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday announced an investigation into the use of force by federal agents in Portland, and in Washington, D.C., where tear gas was used to clear an area across from the White House last month before Trump crossed the street to stand in front of a church.
Also Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari announced an investigation into allegations of improper behavior by DHS law enforcement in Portland recently.
Demonstrators have marched in Portland every day in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. Some protests have led to vandalism and other crimes.
Elsewhere, federal law enforcement agents are also being dispatched to Chicago, after a surge in gang violence that has left about 100 dead in the last several weeks. Agents are also being sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Kansas City, Missouri. The deployment to these three cities is part of what has been dubbed “Operation Legend” to fight violent crime.
The mayors of those three cities and 12 others have sent a letter to federal authorities calling for the immediate withdrawal of their forces and to “agree to no further unilateral deployments in U.S. cities.”
David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told VOA that when he was an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “I was proud to work with local leaders when they needed help righting wrongs.”
But Chipman said Trump’s recent actions in Portland and his statements about problems in other cities “make clear he thinks federal law enforcement are his personal chess pieces for partisan power grabs."
VOA’s Steve Herman contributed to this report.