Three top House Democrats say they want an investigation into whether U.S. federal agents “abused emergency authority” when they cracked down on peaceful anti-police protesters last week in Portland, Oregon.
Representatives Jerold Nadler of New York, Carolyn Maloney of New York, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi sent a letter to the Justice Department and Homeland Security inspectors general Sunday, saying they are “increasingly alarmed at the Trump administration’s use of federal law enforcement to violate the civil rights of our constituents.”
According to the letter, federal officers driving in unmarked cars have detained protesters off the streets of Portland. Other officers have arrested, searched and jailed suspects in the middle of the night before reading them their rights — a violation of the constitution.
The three representatives also condemned the June 1 incident in Washington in which federal agents in riot gear used tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Shortly afterward President Donald Trump walked across the street to pose with a bible in front of St. John’s Church.
“The administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship,” the letter says — questioning the legal basis for such tactics.
Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told National Public Radio Friday that federal agents used unmarked cars 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."
But Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said on CNN Sunday that the federal officers “are not wanted here. We haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”
Trump tweeted Sunday that the city has lost control and says the protesters are “anarchists and agitators,” promising to protect federal property.
"We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Trump tweeted.
Portland police declared a riot Saturday night after some protesters massed outside a police precinct building, vandalized cars, and bellowed obscenities at officers.
A Portland Police Association building was set on fire, but the flames were quickly put out Portland police say seven people were arrested.
Anti-police demonstrations have been flaring up across the country since George Floyd, a Black man, died in the custody of white police officers in Minneapolis in May.
Many of the marches have been peaceful, some have turned violent.