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Oregon Sues Trump Administration for “Secret Police-Type” Tactics, Snatching Protesters Off the Street

— July 22, 2020

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said unidentified federal officers have abducted protesters, whisking them away in unmarked vans.

The Oregon state government has filed a lawsuit against federal agencies accused of snatching Black Lives Matter protesters off the streets of Portland.

The complaint and request for injunction, notes National Public Radio, was filed in response to claims of brutality against protesters by federal officers and agents.

In Portland, reports have emerged of protesters being shunted into unmarked vans by masked federal agents, many of whom do not wear identifying badges or departmental insignia. This disturbing tactic is purportedly part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters across the country—despite the insistence of some states and cities that they do not need or want federal assistance.

According to POLITICO, Portland’s lawsuit is part of a “growing pushback” to the administration’s use of federal agents in the city. That pushback has gained significant traction since President Trump announced his intent to employ similar tactics in other cities.

“I share the concerns of our state and local leaders—and our Oregon U.S. Senators and certain Congressional representatives—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,” state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a weekend statement. “These tactics must stop.”

Black Lives Matter graffiti in Portland, OR. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Another Believer. (CCA-BY-4.0).

And, on Thursday, Rosenblum requested that a judge “declare it not acceptable for federal officers to use unconstitutional, police state-type acts to detain citizens of Oregon without cause.”

The state specifically referenced the case of Mark Pettibone, a demonstrator who was abducted by federal officers in the early hours of July 16th. Pettibone, states NPR, was loaded into a van and taken to a federal courthouse.

“On information and belief, defendants did not have a warrant to seize Pettibone or the other citizens who have been detained, and will continue to seize individuals off the street without a warrant, in the absence of an injunction,” the lawsuit says.

Pettibone, as the lawsuit recalls, was unsure at the time of his arrest whether he was being detained by actual law enforcement or a rogue right-wing militia.

“I did not know whether the men were police or far-right extremists, who, in my experience, frequently don military-like outfits and harass left-leaning protesters in Portland,” Pettibone said.

In response to Oregon’s claims, David Morrell–an attorney for the U.S. government–argued that federal intervention is necessary to discourage and detain potentially violent protesters.

Morrell, says POLITICO, also attempted to discredit claims that federal agents are abducting protesters off the streets. Despite numerous accounts detailing the same, Morrell maintained that any reports of protesters being taken away in unmarked vans are based solely on “a few threadbare declarations” from witnesses, as well as a single Twitter video.

“It’s important to underscore what’s at stake here,” Morrell told U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman. “The Hatfield courthouse did not damage itself.”

Morrell also asserted that Black Lives Matter protests have turned “dangerous and volatile.”

Judge Mosman, says POLITICO, does not yet appear inclined to rule either way. However, Mosman did question whether Oregon’s attorney general has requisite authority to request an injunction on behalf of the state’s entire population.

Oregon prosecutors have also said they may pursue criminal charges against a federal agent who seriously injured a protester with non-lethal crowd-control munitions.

In the meantime, Rosenblum has cautioned residents of other cities to be wary of the Trump administration’s crackdown on Black Lives Matter protests.

“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,” Rosenblum said. “Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere.”


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