Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Oakland, Portland file suit over use of federal agents at protests

The cities of Oakland and Portland, Oregon have sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, alleging that the agencies are overstepping constitutional limits in their use of federal law enforcement officers to tamp down on protests.

The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, cites the deployment of U.S. agents this summer to quell protests in Portland and alleges the U.S. Marshals Service unlawfully deputized dozens of local Portland police officers as federal agents despite objections from city officials. The federal deputations have meant protesters arrested by local police could face federal charges, which generally carry stiffer penalties.

The use of federal agents in these ways is a major shift in policy and threatens the independence of local law enforcement, according to the lawsuit. The complaint cites the anti-commandeering doctrine of the Tenth Amendment, which says that the federal government cannot require states or state officials to adopt or enforce federal law.

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security criticized the lawsuit.

“Yet again, dangerous politicians and fringe special interest groups have ginned up a meritless lawsuit. They aim to harm President Trump and distract from his law and order agenda,” the department said. “Department of Homeland Security have acted entirely lawfully. Instead of condemning the violence we are seeing across the country, these politicians focus on scoring cheap political points to the detriment of the American people.”

In the past, acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf has been a vocal defender of the administration’s response to the civil unrest in Portland

The Trump administration says the work of the federal agents is limited to federal property but the lawsuit says “the activities in cities such as Portland instead reveal a distinct and meaningful policy shift to use federal enforcement to unilaterally step in and replace local law enforcement departments that do not subscribe to the President’s view of domestic ‘law and order.’”

The allegations of constitutional overreach focus on the federal government’s actions in Portland but Oakland joined the lawsuit because of concerns that the Trump administration might send U.S. agents to Oakland or deputize police officers there as well, court papers show.

Protests over racial injustice and police brutality have roiled both U.S. West cities since the death of George Floyd and drawn attacks from President Donald Trump, who threatened to send federal resources to restore law and order.

In Portland, the Trump administration sent dozens of U.S. agents to the city in July to guard a federal courthouse that had become a target of protesters, but those agents clashed with protesters blocks from the courthouse on several occasions. The state of Oregon sued over allegations that federal agents swept up protesters in unmarked cars without identifying themselves.

U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams said in late September that more than 80 people had been charged with federal crimes related to the protests.

Last month, Portland agreed to have about five dozen of its police officers deputized as federal agents by the Marshals Service in advance of a rally planned in the city by the right-wing group Proud Boys. The city anticipated potential clashes between left- and right-wing protesters. Troopers from the Oregon State Police and a local sheriff’s department were also deputized.

City leaders have since said that they believed the police officers would only be federally deputized for that weekend and sought to cancel the agreement after the rally was over. But the U.S. Attorney for Oregon and the Marshals Service have refused to cancel the deputization, which officially expires on Dec. 31.

34 PHOTOSTrump's military-style federal squads in PortlandSee GalleryTrump's military-style federal squads in PortlandPORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : A person holds a banner at the Portland Mom’s March near the Justice Center in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 20: Federal police walk through tear gas while dispersing a crowd of about a thousand protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 20, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : Portland protesters confront the Federal marshals directly in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 21: A federal officer stares down a protester in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. State and city elected officials have called for the federal officers to leave Portland as clashes between protesters and federal police continue to escalate.(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : Many people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrate for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 20:A protester rides his bike past a tear gas grenade after federal police dispersed a crowd of about a thousand protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 20, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : Federal officers deploy huge quantities of CS tear gas in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 21: A protester escapes a federal officer during an arrest attempt in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. State and city elected officials have called for the federal officers to leave Portland as clashes between protesters and federal police continue to escalate.(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : People gather for the Portland Mom’s March near the Justice Center in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 21: A protester flies an American flag while walking through tear gas fired by federal officers during a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 21: Two examples of the protective vests with identifying markings worn by Border Patrol and Homeland Security agents during a press conference with Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfon the recent events involving the agents during continued protests in Portland at the US Customs and Border Patrol headquarters on July 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 21:A federal officer tells the crowd to move while dispersing a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. State and city elected officials have called for the federal officers to leave Portland as clashes between protesters and federal police continue to escalate.(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : A person holds a banner at the Portland Mom’s March near the Justice Center in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Federal officers pull a protester into the Federal Courthouse, Friday, July 10, 2020, as protesters gather in downtown Portland, Ore., Friday, July 10, 2020. Soon after, Portland police tweeted that federal officers arrested a protester around 11 p.m. “related to vandalizing the Federal Courthouse.” (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)A group of mothers stand arm-in-arm outside the federal building and Justice Center in downtown Portland, Ore., on Saturday, July 18, 2020, during another night of protests in Portland. (Mark Graves/The Oregonian via AP)Federal officers pull a protester into the Federal Courthouse, Friday, July 10, 2020, as protesters gather in downtown Portland, Ore., Friday, July 10, 2020. Soon after, Portland police tweeted that federal officers arrested a protester around 11 p.m. “related to vandalizing the Federal Courthouse.” (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore.Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Protesters react during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 17: Protestors attempt to barricade a door to the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Federal law enforcement agencies attempt to intervene as protests continue in Portland. (Photo by Mason Trinca/Getty Images)A federal law enforcement officer, deployed under the Trump administration’s new executive order to protect federal monuments and buildings spreads tear gas during a protest over racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, U.S. July 17, 2020. Picture taken July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Nathan Howard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYPolice respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore.Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Police respond to protesters during a demonstration,Friday, July 17, 2020 in Portland, Ore.Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)Police gather as protesters gather during a demonstration, Thursday, July 16, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters late Thursday.The actions came just hours after the head of the Department of Homeland Security called the protesters “violent anarchists.” (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)Protesters gathered downtown during a demonstration Thursday, July 16, 2020 n Portland, Ore. Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters late Thursday.The actions came just hours after the head of the Department of Homeland Security called the protesters “violent anarchists.” (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)FILE – In this Friday, July 10, 2020, file photo, Federal officers pull a protester into the Federal Courthouse as protesters gather in downtown Portland, Ore. The mayor of Portland, Oregon said late Sunday, July 12, 2020, the U.S. Marshals Service are investigating the injury of a protester who was hospitalized in critical condition over the weekend after being hit in the head by an impact weapon fired by a federal law enforcement officer. Mayor Ted Wheeler said he spoke with with U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams and learned of the investigation. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, File)Protesters gather during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., Thursday, July 16, 2020.Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters late Thursday.The actions came just hours after the head of the Department of Homeland Security called the protesters “violent anarchists.” (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)PORTLAND, OR – JULY 22: A protester is surrounded by tear gas near the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 22, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials.(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Washington PostPORTLAND, OR – JULY 21: Federal officers are surrounded by tear gas while clearing the street in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials.(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Washington PostPORTLAND, OR – JULY 22: Protesters try to put out a firein front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 22, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials.(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Washington PostPORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : Federal officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Up Next

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The lawsuit also alleges that the U.S. government has illegally erected a fence around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, which is federal property, against the city’s wishes. The fence blocks a major bike thoroughfare that is city property, according to Portland officials.

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