PORTLAND, Ore. — Hot on the heels of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief's visit to Portland, four members of Oregon's congressional delegation are demanding that U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf remove their "special forces" from the state.
Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden were joined by Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici in drafting a letter addressed to the Trump appointees, calling the methods used by federal officers "politically-motivated authoritarian tactics."
(Photo courtesy Doug Brown / ACLU of Oregon)
Acting Secretary Wolf criticized local leaders on Thursday, saying that the city of Portland was "under siege" by groups that he repeatedly referred to as "violent anarchists." His visit appeared to largely consist of meetings with federal officers who have increasingly been involved in clashes with protesters outside of the federal Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.
Merkley and Wyden have been critical of federal law enforcement's response in Portland, particularly following recent reports that a protester had been hospitalized after being shot in the head with a "less lethal" round, and allegations that agents have use unmarked vehicles to detain and question protestors without explanation.
Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end. pic.twitter.com/PE4YfZ9Vqd
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 16, 2020
“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 Oregon delegates wrote. “They are more reflective of tactics of a government led by a dictator, not from the government of our constitutional democratic republic.”
The same group of U.S. lawmakers have requested that the DOJ and DHS offices of the Inspector General investigate the tactics used by federal officers 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," the lawmakers continued. "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.’”