Federal officers use chemical irritants and projectiles to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield…
Federal officers use chemical irritants and projectiles to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 24, 2020.

Disturbances erupted again Friday in Portland, Oregon, where the presence and actions of federal officers are raising concerns of a possible constitutional crisis on the grounds the agents have been deployed without local consent.

The renewed clashes follow a judge’s imposition of a temporary restraining order against the agents in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. 

A medic treats Black Lives Matter protester Lacey Wambalaba after exposure to chemical irritants deployed by federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
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In the latest confrontation, protesters clashed with agents who forced protesters away from a federal courthouse after declaring an unlawful assembly.

The incident came a day after U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued his order blocking the federal agents from using physical force or arresting journalists and legal observers at protests against systemic racism and alleged police brutality. The agents were deployed by President Donald Trump. 

FILE - Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks to people gathered in downtown Portland, Oregon, July 22, 2020.

The ruling came one day after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was among a group of protesters who were tear-gassed when federal agents broke up a protest at the courthouse.  

According to the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, policing is a state power, not the authority of the federal government. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” the Amendment states. 

Wheeler has said he wants the agents to leave, calling their presence an abuse of federal authority and an incitement for violence.  

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Thursday an investigation into the use of force by federal agents in Portland and 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.

FILE - President Donald Trump walks from the gates of the White House to visit St. John's Church across Lafayette Park, June 1, 2020.

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 in Portland have seen demonstrators set fires outside the federal courthouse and vandalize the building.

Federal agents use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter demonstrators during a protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
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Operation Legend

Elsewhere, federal law enforcement agents are also being dispatched to Chicago, Illinois, 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. 

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during an event on "Operation Legend: Combating Violent Crime in American Cities," in the East Room of the White House, July 22, 2020.

The mayors of these 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.” 

Trump has emphasized “law and order” as he finds himself fighting for reelection in November against former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.  

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.”  

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.