The federal government’s aggressive response to the past month and a half of protests escalated to a frightening new level this week. According to reports, federal law enforcement agents have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, Ore., and seize protesters without identifying themselves.
The federal officers are purportedly in Portland to quell what acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who was also in the city this week, has called a “violent mob” of anarchists. According to reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the officers have been detaining people without explaining the reason for the arrest, and at times nowhere near the federal property they are supposed to be protecting. They also shot one protester in the face with impact munition, resulting in skull fractures and hospitalization. And following Wolf’s visit on Thursday, federal officers fired tear gas and less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters.
As part of our investigation into the government’s response to protests, American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for directives and guidance given to federal police regarding the use of force, the display of badges and uniforms, and the deployment of officers. We’re also requesting communications of top officials, including Wolf and Attorney General William Barr, about the deployment to Portland.
State and local officials, along with civil rights advocates, have condemned the actions of federal law enforcement in Portland and have asked them to leave. “Now [President Donald Trump] is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government,” said Gov. Kate Brown.
“Secret police have no place in our democracy,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director. “Whoever is responsible for these tactics may have impressed the president with their authoritarian peacocking but history will judge them poorly. The public has a right to know the truth about how and why federal forces were deployed in draconian ways in an American city.”
These new aggressive actions by the Trump administration are the latest in what has been more than a month of outsized response to nationwide demonstrations against police brutality. American Oversight has been investigating the tactics deployed by local agencies as well as the federal government’s involvement in suppressing protests — you can read more about that investigation here.
Part of Investigation: