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The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Democratic state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, have filed suit against the federal government following the injury and arrests of violent protesters in Portland, parts of which have been under siege for nearly two months.
“I share the concerns of our state and local leaders – and our Oregon U.S. Senators and certain Congressional representatives – that the current escalation of fear and violence in downtown Portland is being driven by federal law enforcement tactics that are entirely unnecessary and out of character with the Oregon way. These tactics must stop,” Rosenblum said in a statement, according to Willamette Week.
“They not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully. They also create a more volatile situation on our streets,” she added.
Meanwhile, the ACLU will file a lawsuit seeking to block the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service from arresting “journalists” and “legal observers” in Portland, according to NBC affiliate KGW.
In a statement, the legal group said federal officers were “deployed over the widespread objections of local leaders and community members, have been indiscriminately using tear gas, rubber bullets, and acoustic weapons against protesters, journalists, and legal observers.
“Federal officers also shot a protester in the head Sunday with a rubber bullet, fracturing the person’s face and skull,” the statement said.
“This is a fight to save our democracy,” said Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon.
“Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality,” he added.
“This is police escalation on top of police escalation. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city. We will continue to bring the full firepower of the ACLU to bear until this lawless policing ends,” Simon continued.
The suits come in response to a viral video of federal agents detaining a suspect last week who was picked up by two federal agents and taken to an unmarked van nearby. The officers are thought to be part of the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), established via executive order President Donald Trump signed June 26.
That order is titled “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity,” and it directs federal agencies to ramp up efforts to defend federal properties from rioters.
“We won’t stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said last month in response to the order.
“While the Department respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated.”
As for Portland, the city has been rocked by nearly two months of protest, violence, and destruction, much of it directed at federal officers holed up in the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which has been marred by graffiti and damaged by demonstrators. In one recent incident, a federal agent was injured by a demonstrator wielding a hammer.
Over the July 4 weekend, Portland police were forced to declare a riot and move to disperse crowds who had “attacked” the courthouse, according to KOIN.
Police declared a riot again overnight, as ‘peaceful’ demonstrators set fire to the Portland Police Association building.
PPA on fire. Riot declared. Sirens coming from the west. Crowd moving East. Hearing some kind of shots. pic.twitter.com/mzn594pPBa
— Montucky Woodsnacks (@tuckwoodstock) July 19, 2020
According to Oregon Live, the PNW Youth Liberation Front has been leading most demonstrations and protests, which have spanned 52 straight days and nights. Reports noted that crowds around the courthouse have been growing in recent nights, with some protesters actively taunting federal agents.
“WE WANT THE FIGHT!” one man screams into a hole in the courthouse building here in Portland. pic.twitter.com/dip1HLogl7
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) July 19, 2020
Democrats on the local, state, and federal level are united in opposing Trump administration efforts to defend the courthouse, as well as attempts to bring some semblance of order to the city.
First Amendment speech should never be met with one-sided violence from federal agents acting as Trump’s secret police, especially when unidentified. This is disgraceful behavior we would expect from a banana republic — not the government of the United States.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 18, 2020
“Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic. @DHSgov’s actions in Portland undermine its mission. Trump & his stormtroopers must be stopped,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted.
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