By Yuanqi Ivy Zhou
Portland, OR – Across the nation officials are demanding that federal authorities, who claim they are acting to bring order to Portland, leave—with local leaders believing that the federal presence is inflaming rather than calming the situation.
On Friday, members of the US Congress drafted a letter to Attorney General Barr and Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Secretary Chad Wolf demanding that all federal agents be immediately removed from Portland and the rest of the state of Oregon, condemning the presence of federal law enforcement as an absolute abuse of power for President Trump’s campaign.
The act comes as federal agents dressed in military gear took to the streets of Portland, using tear gas and force, causing protesters to be injured, while pulling some people into unmarked vans in what Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon has called “a blatant abuse of power.”
Senators Jeffrey A. Merkley and Ron Wyden, with the help of Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, sent a letter to Barr and Acting Secretary Wolf demanding that they remove any Special Operating Group (SOG), US Custom and Border Protection Tactical Unit (BORTAC), and Homeland Security Investigations Special Response Team (HSI SRT) agents and other federal agents from Oregon immediately.
The four Congress members accuse the federal government of 1) “deploying federal agents without identifying insignia,” 2) “snatching people off the streets with no apparent reason for apprehension,” and 3) “using potentially deadly munitions to harm peaceful protesters.”
In the letter, they refer to several cases of unlawful violence of federal agents against innocent civilians which occurred quite recently. One of the most viral cases was that of innocent civilians being arrested and put into unmarked military cars by camouflaged military soldiers.
Some footage was released featuring federal paramilitary forces from the BORTAC dressed in camouflage and body armor without identification and abducting civilians off the streets into unmarked cars, such as in the case of Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea after the protest outside of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland.
After these police officers abducted innocent civilians who seemed like they would be associated with the protests, they would search them, and release or charge them depending on their findings. These arrests were made with only the suspicion on the basis of their proximity and dress—in other words with no evidence that that would constitute probable cause.
Another case was the violent instance when a peaceful demonstrator was shot in the face on July 11, 2020, by the SOG in their violent attempt to quell the protesting crowd.
Though it is acknowledged that the federal government holds the responsibility of protecting the nation, the Congress members claim that these violent tactics are way too out of hand. In response to these actions unlawfully committed by the federal government and the deployed agencies, they demand that “not only must these egregious tactics end immediately, we demand that you remove these federal paramilitary forces from our state.”
The Congress members are convinced that the developments in military tactics to control protests are to provoke further conflict in an attempt to advance President Trump’s political developments and interests in Portland. Though there are a few dangerous acts actually being committed, these Congress members refer to the President’s campaign claiming that protestors as a whole are “lawless” and “radical left-wing mobs” in an attempt to portray himself as a figure of “law and order.”
Federal government should be more transparent about who exactly is responsible for the loss of innocent civilian lives as a result of the deployment of federal agents, because the use of the president’s power over the military for his own political interests and gains is unconstitutional, the members of Congress write.
The letter concludes that all federal agents need to be removed from the state of Oregon and that “we will not tolerate the use of Oregonians as props in President Trump’s campaign-motivated abuse of power.”
Meanwhile, Oregon’s AG, Ellen Rosenblum, announced Friday that her office had opened a criminal investigation into how one protester was injured near a federal courthouse. Her office filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court accusing the federal agents of engaging in unlawful tactics and seeking a restraining order.
The strife in Portland, which has seen 50 straight days of protests, reflects the growing fault lines in law enforcement as President Trump threatens an assertive federal role in how cities manage a wave of national unrest after George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police.
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