The state of Oregon is taking the federal government to court over federal agents who have been deployed in Portland amid violent incidents in the city.
The suit targets the Department of Homeland Security, the Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protection Service, according to a release on the Oregon Department of Justice website.
Oregon is also seeking a temporary restraining order that would stop federal agents from detaining anyone, the release states.
The Protecting American Communities Task Force, which was created in late June by the DHS in response to an executive order to protect federal property, has been deployed to Portland. On Friday, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said in a statement that CBP agents were sent to Portland to support DHS in its PACT mission.
The Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland has been one of the targets of unrest in the city. A release on the Department of Homeland Security website that announced the creation of PACT noted that federal actions to protect property “may involve potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of critical locations.”
Federal agents in green camouflage have been seen on the streets of Portland detaining protesters.
In the news release, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she was concerned “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. 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. We are today asking the federal court to stop the federal police from secretly stopping and forcibly grabbing Oregonians off our streets,” she said.
“The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere.”
The complaint targets individuals identified as John Does 1 through 10, because the federal agents in Portland do not wear nametags.
It said they “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles, removing them from public without either arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest, since at least Tuesday, July 14.”
The complaint stated that an individual named Mark Pettibone has complained that these agents detained him without charging him and then released him.
“Oregonians have the right to walk through downtown Portland at night and in the early hours of the morning,” the lawsuit argued.
“Ordinarily, a person exercising his right to walk through the streets of Portland who is confronted by anonymous men in military-type fatigues and ordered into an unmarked van can reasonably assume that he is being kidnapped and is the victim of a crime.”
CBP spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said “agents had information indicating the person in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property,” according to ABC.
DHS officials have pushed back against their critics on Twitter.
A snapshot of the violence we are seeing nightly in Portland for 47 days now:
-violent anarchists have repeatedly shot explosive fireworks into a courthouse
-violent anarchists have repeatedly broken windows and doors while attempting to take over courthouses pic.twitter.com/uGxkablXuP
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 16, 2020
Let’s get this right. “Protestors” imply they were peacefully exercising their 1st amendment rights. Instead, DHS officers were assaulted with lasers and frozen water bottles from violent criminals attempting to tear down federal property. 2 officers were injured. Facts matter. https://t.co/U2CdAT0c9G
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 17, 2020
The only positive thing I can think of to say about these criminals is at least they’re clear about what they want to do, even if they don’t care about who they hurt: Portland protesters flood police precinct, chant about burning it down https://t.co/Q1OXgdcdjl #FoxNews
— Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (@HomelandKen) July 17, 2020
But the Oregon complaint puts the blame clearly on the federal agencies.
“Defendants are injuring the occupants of Portland by taking away citizens’ ability to determine whether they are being kidnapped by militia or other malfeasants dressed in paramilitary gear (such that they may engage in self-defense to the fullest extent permitted by law) or are being arrested (such that resisting might amount to a crime),” the lawsuit states.
“State law enforcement officers are not being consulted or coordinated with on these federal detentions, and could expend unnecessary resources responding to reports of an abduction, when federal agents snatch people walking through downtown Portland without explanation or identification.
“Defendants’ tactics violate the rights of all people detained without a warrant or a basis for arrest, and violate the state’s sovereign interests in enforcing its laws and in protecting people within its borders from kidnap and false arrest, without serving any legitimate federal law enforcement purpose.”
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