Federal agents in riot gear again used tear gas to disperse protesters in Portland, Oregon, early Saturday, local media reported. Portland police have been banned by a federal judge from using tear gas to disperse crowds.
Early Saturday morning, Portland police declared the demonstration in the city’s downtown area unlawful, and local police and federal law enforcement officers without clear identification badges converged simultaneously to “advance on protesters,” according to the Oregonian/OregonLive.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell told reporters Friday that the local and federal entities communicate but neither controls the other.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Friday that its agents had been deployed to the city to bolster the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit, which President Donald Trump has tasked with protecting federal monuments and buildings in Portland.
Thursday, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who was in Portland meeting with federal law enforcement officials, issued a statement calling the protesters “violent anarchists.”
Saturday morning’s demonstration was the latest daily protest around the federal courthouse in Portland since George Floyd, a Black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25 in police custody 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 throughout the world.
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.”
The ACLU sued DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday, adding the federal agencies to a lawsuit the organization had already filed against local police to block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday that he wanted Trump to remove the militarized federal officers. “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 said she would sue the federal government for detaining people without probable cause.
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."
Federal authorities have charged more than a dozen people with crimes related to the protests so far, Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported.
Crowds protested Friday for the 51st consecutive night since late May.
Oregon officials have voiced strong opposition to Trump’s deployment of DHS officers to Portland.
This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government. https://t.co/PdlZkmW0mQ— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 16, 2020
Governor Kate Brown stated Thursday that Trump was looking for a confrontation in hopes of winning political points with his base.
Brown said she told Wolf to remove all federal officers from Portland’s streets, saying that Wolf was “putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”
In response to Wolf’s and the DHS leadership’s visit on Thursday, Wheeler, the city’s mayor, stated: “We’re aware that they’re here. We wish they weren’t.”
A number of people have asked if I know DHS leadership is in town, and if I’m going to meet with them. We’re aware that they’re here. We wish they weren’t. We haven’t been invited to meet with them, and if we were , we would decline.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) July 16, 2020
Wheeler also responded to news that the White House press secretary reportedly told Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, to request federal help to secure her city.
“This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House,” Wheeler said Thursday. “It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now.”
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that Andrew Jankowski, a freelance journalist, was booked and released from the Multnomah County Detention Center early Friday.
Jankowski’s arrest came a day after U.S. District Judge Michael Simon extended to October 30 an injunction blocking such action by law enforcement.