An effort by Oregon’s attorney general to interfere with the conduct of federal agents battling rioters in Portland has fallen flat after a federal judge said the state lacks the legal standing to intervene.
Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum claimed that federal agents were violating the rights of protesters, and filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service, according to The Oregonian.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman, however, wasn’t having it.
“Because it has not shown it is vindicating an interest that is specific to the state itself — I find the State of Oregon lacks standing here and therefore deny its request for a temporary restraining order,” he wrote in Friday’s decision.
The state rested its case on two incidents — the alleged detention of Michael Pettibone, who said he was picked up, held and released without any charges being filed, and a video showing an individual being led off by men in camouflage.
Neither case did much to persuade Mosman, who for the sake of his ruling assumed that both instances represented improper conduct.
“[T]he State has presented just one example of an arrest without probable cause and one example of an unreasonable seizure. That is the sum total of the evidence before me that underpins the legal injuries the State asserts in its brief. In both instances of a federal seizure it is either admitted or clearly visible that the agents’ uniforms say ‘Police,'” he wrote.
Mosman said there was nothing presented by the state of Oregon to indicate that this is happening on a regular basis.
“It has presented no evidence of any official orders or policies and has presented no evidence that these allegedly illegal seizures are a widespread practice,” he wrote. “Despite the broad language in the complaint, Oregon has shown — at most — that this type of seizure has happened twice.”
Mosman also rejected the claim that there was an increased risk of kidnapping because of the federal tactics.
“The State’s theory is that individuals who oppose the protests could assume the attire of federal police and mimic these unlawful arrests in order to kidnap protesters, thus subjecting them to the risks discussed here,” he wrote.
“The injury the state asserts is entirely conjectural. First, the state candidly admits that it does not have a shred of evidence that counter-protesters have ever, anywhere, kidnapped a protester or anyone associated with protests,” Mosman said.
“Second, the asserted interest rests on an utterly implausible inference. The State’s reasoning is that counter-protesters, once they learn of seizures of protesters by federal agents, will dress up like police and go out on private missions to kidnap protesters. This despite the fact that such kidnappings are Measure 11 felonies in Oregon, punishable by mandatory minimum sentences of up to 70-90 months in prison.”
Mosman poked holes in the state’s argument.
“The State’s requested solution to the kidnapping problem is to require actual federal agents to verbally identify themselves as such, presumably guaranteeing that they are the real deal,” he wrote.
“But if one is willing to go along with the State’s concerns about copycat kidnappers, it requires me to assume that such nefarious characters are willing to dress up like federal agents and willing to commit the very serious crime of kidnapping, but that they would blanch at the thought of identifying themselves as police.
“The requested remedy here is a linguistic Maginot line, of no use in the real world.”
Mosman concluded that “the idea that seizures by law enforcement will lead to kidnappings by private parties is a bridge too far.”
Rosenblum said she was disappointed that federal agents will not have their conduct reined in.
“I believe all Oregonians have a right to know which federal law enforcement agencies are policing our streets, and why they are detaining peaceful protesters,” she said in a statement.
“While today the court declined to issue an immediate order putting a stop to those tactics, we are, nevertheless, hopeful these abuses will stop and no other Oregonians will be subject to them or to the chilling effect they have on the right to engage in peaceful protest.”
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