Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler demanded on Friday that President Trump remove troops from Portland. He accused the President of conducting a coordinated action to boost his sagging poll numbers.
Wheeler says Portland Police were successfully de-escalating the demonstrations with fewer and fewer problems each night. But, the addition of federal troops this week escalated tensions.
Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, today blasted federal agencies’ politically-motivated “authoritarian tactics” and demanded that U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf immediately remove their special forces from Oregon.
“These tactics include deploying federal agents without identifying insignia in an apparent effort to evade transparency and accountability, snatching people off the street with no apparent reason for apprehension, and using potentially deadly munitions to harm peaceful protesters. These actions are out of control,” the delegation wrote. “They are more reflective of tactics of a government led by a dictator, not from the government of our constitutional democratic republic.”
The letter continues: “These tactics, coupled with the violent nature of the federal agents’ crowd control tactics resulting in a peaceful demonstrator being shot in the face on July 11, 2020 by a member of the U.S Marshals Service Special Operating Group (SOG), seem calculated to provoke further conflict, a conclusion reinforced by the President’s efforts to make a political issue out of developments in Portland. The message crafted by the Trump administration to justify this escalation of force and intimidation in Portland borders on propaganda, apparently to serve the President’s perceived political interests. This is unacceptable under our Constitution. There are undoubtedly dangerous acts being committed by a small number of individuals. Yet a Department of Homeland Security press release refers to ‘violent anarchists’ 72 times while describing graffiti. Meanwhile, the President’s re-election campaign is running ads warning of ‘lawlessness’ and ‘radical left-wing mobs.’”
The letter points out that the lawmakers also emphasized that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have refused to provide any answers to even the most fundamental questions.
“These actions represent a complete abuse of power, and we demand that you remove any SOG, [U.S. Customs and Border Protection Tactical Unit (BORTAC)], Homeland Security Investigations Special Response Team (HSI SRT) agents or other federal agents recently deployed to Oregon immediately,” they wrote. “We will not tolerate the use of Oregonians as props in President Trump’s campaign-motivated abuse of power.”
U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams released the following statement today on federal law enforcement’s response to ongoing protests in Portland:
“The overarching goal of law enforcement is public protection and, during tense and dangerous situations, de-escalation. Federal law enforcement officers protecting the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse and other federal buildings have been operating with those two critical goals. Night after night for the past 50 nights, they have protected the federal courthouse from incursion and fire. They have rebuffed efforts to enter the building by force and have been met with an onslaught of commercial fireworks, laser strikes, glass, mortars, paint, and anything else near at hand. They have endeavored to find the individuals within the crowd who are committing these violent acts and arrest them in a manner that is safe for both the officers and nearby non-violent protesters.
In limited instances, their conduct has been questioned and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General appropriately opened an investigation into the use of less lethal ammunition directed at a protester last week.
Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protesters without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel.
As U.S. Attorney, I will continue to work in concert with local and federal law enforcement and city and community leaders to bring about an end to this violence.”