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Merkley and Wyden draft legislation to halt 'federal paramilitary occupation' in Portland

(Photo courtesy Doug Brown / ACLU of Oregon)

Oregon's U.S. Senators and several Representatives are championing legislation aimed at reining in federal law enforcement officers in Portland and other cities.

Posted: Jul 20, 2020 4:40 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2020 5:20 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a clear follow-up to statements made earlier this week decrying the presence of federal law enforcement officers in Portland, a group of Oregon's U.S. lawmakers have drafted legislation aimed at stopping what they call "paramilitary occupations" in cities.

The Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act was introduced by Oregon's U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden and Senator Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, along with Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.


(Photo courtesy Doug Brown / ACLU of Oregon)

In the Senate, this legislation comes in the form of a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is currently under debate.

The nightly protests in Portland sparked by the death of George Floyd made national headlines last week as two related events dovetailed.

On Thursday, the city saw a visit from U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf, who widely referred to protesters outside of the federal Mark O. Hatfield courthouse as "violent anarchists" and described the city as one under siege, criticizing local and state leaders for refusing to "restore order."

Almost simultaneously, federal law enforcement officers in Portland earned widespread scrutiny when one protester was hospitalized after being struck in the head by a "less lethal" round. At least one individual also reported being pulled into an unmarked vehicle by camouflage-clad federal agents for interrogation.

"Donald Trump's occupying army continues to trample on the constitutional rights of Oregonians and escalate violence against peaceful protesters," Senator Wyden said. "If Congress doesn't step in, these authoritarian tactics won't stop in my hometown. If it can happen in Portland, it can happen anywhere."

The amendment would require that federal officers carry both individual and agency identification on their uniforms, and bar them from using unmarked vehicles during arrests. It would also limit crowd-control to federal property or the immediate area, unless requested otherwise "by both the mayor and the governor."

Federal agencies would also have to disclose on their websites within 24 hours of deployment, noting both the number of personnel and the purposes of deployment. Any arrests made in violation of the new rules would be unlawful.

The amendment has widespread support from Democrats — including former presidential candidates Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker — but it's unclear whether it will gain any traction in the Republican-dominated Senate.

"Without identification there is no way to hold these officers accountable, and there is no way to know if they are really federal officers," said Senator Murphy. "We cannot allow an American secret police. I hope that Republicans will join us in recognizing the severity of this threat and include this legislation in the NDAA."

Acting DHS Secretary Wolf continued firing back on Monday, citing more protests in Portland over the weekend — demonstrations that appear to have gained renewed vigor due to the crackdown by federal officers.

"Attempted arson is not a peaceful protest. Physically attacking law enforcement is not freedom of speech. Destruction of property is not peaceful assembly," Wolf said. "Criminals perpetrating these crimes are being arrested…not law abiding protesters."

According to DHS, some individuals on Saturday night — again referred to broadly as "violent anarchists" — threw fireworks at the federal courthouse building "attempting to injure or kill federal officers," used lasers to target officers' eyes, broke down fencing, and set fires.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 68503

Reported Deaths: 867
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15561230
Washington940198
Marion8650135
Clackamas568777
Umatilla421248
Lane405040
Jackson357925
Malheur234942
Deschutes207414
Yamhill161516
Linn131019
Polk114015
Douglas88217
Jefferson79811
Union7463
Klamath7454
Benton7447
Morrow6357
Lincoln60014
Wasco49719
Josephine4824
Columbia4573
Coos4061
Hood River3751
Clatsop3450
Baker2703
Crook2086
Grant1301
Curry1202
Tillamook1150
Lake1131
Harney901
Wallowa703
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1171802

Reported Deaths: 19025
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3832757580
San Bernardino884691129
Riverside850771434
San Diego75307988
Orange731521559
Kern39990448
Fresno37349477
Sacramento35739566
Santa Clara32454476
Alameda28378502
San Joaquin25675502
Contra Costa23381260
Stanislaus21145422
Tulare20550308
Ventura18914175
Imperial15725356
San Francisco15053160
Monterey14695116
San Mateo13707170
Sonoma11846157
Merced11537179
Santa Barbara11205135
Kings1044087
Solano1003681
Marin7628129
Placer622468
Madera604785
San Luis Obispo595635
Shasta460147
Yolo456174
Santa Cruz420228
Butte385359
Sutter314415
Napa294517
El Dorado21544
Yuba198110
San Benito181316
Lassen17733
Tehama158725
Mendocino148522
Nevada11839
Tuolumne9088
Glenn8918
Lake88619
Humboldt8199
Colusa6946
Siskiyou6242
Mono5243
Amador48416
Calaveras47522
Del Norte3131
Inyo29016
Plumas2050
Trinity1390
Mariposa1262
Modoc1220
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Sierra190
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