House Democrats call for ‘urgent’ investigation into federal policing in Portland – The Guardian

Top Democrats in the US House are “alarmed” by the Trump administration’s tactics against protesters in Portland, Oregon and other cities including Washington DC, and have called on federal inspectors general to investigate.

“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” wrote House judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, homeland security chairman Bennie Thompson and oversight and reform chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, in a letter to the inspectors general of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The lawmakers are seeking an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the attorney general and the acting secretary of homeland security to suppress first amendment protected activities in Washington DC, Portland and other communities across the United States”.

They wrote on Sunday, before another night of confrontations between protesters and federal forces outside the US courthouse in Oregon’s largest city. Early on Monday, Portland police said such scenes included a small fire outside the building and tear gas deployed to disperse the crowd.

Protests in Portland, Oregon Sunday night.
Protests in Portland, Oregon Sunday night. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

A department statement said police officers did not engage with the the crowd, and that federal authorities periodically came out of the courthouse to keep demonstrators at bay, according to police and news outlets. Video posted online also showed protesters taking down fencing that had surrounded the courthouse.

“Dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats and hockey sticks approached the doors” before federal law enforcement came out and dispersed the crowd, police said.

“At 1.34am people lit a fire within the portico in front of the federal courthouse. Others gathered around the fire adding wood and other debris to make it larger. At 1.42am federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse, dispersed the crowd and extinguished the fire,“ the statement said.

Gas was used at least twice to remove protesters, the statement said, but Portland officers “were not present during any of the activity” or deploy any “CS gas”.

Late on Saturday, protesters broke into the Portland Police Association building, set it on fire and started dumpster fires, police said. The fire was put out a short time later. The department declared the gathering a riot, and began working to clear the area.

In a statement, Portland police said some federal agencies took action “under their own supervision and direction”. Police said city officers arrested seven people, and one officer sustained a minor injury.

The mayor of Oregon’s largest city said on Sunday the presence of federal agents is exacerbating tensions in Portland, which has seen nearly two months of nightly protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Ted Wheeler said federal officers “are not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave”.

Donald Trump has decried the demonstrations, and acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf blasted the protesters as “lawless anarchists” in a visit to the city last week.

“We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”

Before the aggressive language and action from federal officials, the unrest had frustrated Wheeler and other local authorities, who had said a small cadre of violent activists were drowning out the message of peaceful protesters in the city. But Wheeler said the federal presence in the city is now exacerbating a tense situation.

“What we’re seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government,” he said Sunday.

Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum sued DHS and the marshals service in federal court late Friday. The complaint said unidentified federal agents have grabbed people off Portland’s streets “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action”.

Rosenblum said she was seeking a temporary restraining order to “immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians”.

However, federal officers and Portland police advanced simultaneously on demonstrators to clear the streets early Saturday, making arrests as protesters threw bottles and pieces of metal fencing.

The action by Portland’s police was condemned by Jo Ann Hardesty, a prominent member of the city council. Hardesty said local police “joined in the aggressive clampdown of peaceful protest”.

Hardesty also slammed Wheeler, telling the mayor he needed to better control local law enforcement. Hardesty, who oversees the city’s fire department and other first-responder agencies, said in an open letter to Wheeler, if “you can’t control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau”.

Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMidWh0dHBzOi8vd3d3LnRoZWd1YXJkaWFuLmNvbS91cy1uZXdzLzIwMjAvanVsLzIwL3BvcnRsYW5kLXBvbGljZS1kZW1vY3JhdHMtY2FsbC1mb3ItaW52ZXN0aWdhdGlvbi10cmVhdG1lbnQtcHJvdGVzdGVyc9IBdWh0dHBzOi8vYW1wLnRoZWd1YXJkaWFuLmNvbS91cy1uZXdzLzIwMjAvanVsLzIwL3BvcnRsYW5kLXBvbGljZS1kZW1vY3JhdHMtY2FsbC1mb3ItaW52ZXN0aWdhdGlvbi10cmVhdG1lbnQtcHJvdGVzdGVycw?oc=5

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