For more than 50 straight days, Portland has joined cities across the country in protesting police and state violence against the Black community. Given the Portland Police Bureau’s own extensive history of violence against Black people, calls increased for vast reform, deep defunding, or abolishment. The ongoing protests—various marches, demonstrations, and other events—have been tense and often fraught with incidents of police violence. And when federal enforcement officers, under orders from President Trump, stepped in to “quell” the nightly protests, they only escalated tensions higher.
Today, @realDonaldTrump said...— Keaton Thomas (@keaton_thomas) July 13, 2020
"We've done a great job in Portland. Portland was totally out of control. They went in and I guess they have many people right now in jail. We very much quelled it. If it starts again, we'll quell it again, very easily. It's not hard to do." pic.twitter.com/nTIfl82Mb5
OPB reported that the federal government, in early July, sent officers from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland as well as Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania. The agency has used the claim they arrived to protect the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, adjacent to the Multnomah County Justice Center, the epicenter of the nightly protests. According to OPB, however, federal officers have arrested citizens nowhere near the federal courthouse. Since DHS arrived in Portland, reports have surfaced of agents in unmarked vehicles making arrests and shooting protesters in the head with “less lethal” munitions. While DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf calls protesters “violent extremists,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says the DHS presence is “political theater from President Trump” and “has nothing to do with public safety.”
In Portland and across Oregon, local leaders are responding to an escalating situation. Here’s what they’re saying.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler
“The words and actions from President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security, have shown that this is an attack on our democracy. I stand with our senators, representatives, and our state county and city leaders in denouncing their presence. Over the past week, President Trump has used our city as a staging ground to further his political agenda, igniting his base to cause further divisiveness, and in doing so endangering Portlanders…. This is not political theater. This is far more dangerous than that. We have federal officers on our streets further escalating tensions and causing further harm to Portlanders right now. This is not the America we want. This is not the Portland we want.”
Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
“Portland cannot work side by side [with] a militarized presence in our streets, which is why I am calling on PPB to immediately disengage in any coordination or collaboration with the federal officers and put an end to proactively deploying officers to police protests where federal agents are present. In lieu of nightly presence where officers are waiting in riot gear, I propose we go back to a world where if a crime takes place, I encourage you to call 911, and our first responders can be dispatched to respond to specific incidents and investigate them on their own merits. What must end is the nightly policing of protests where Portlanders are met with a police force dressed in riot gear resulting in tactics that indiscriminately affect large groups of Portlanders regardless of their actions.”
Beyond Portland, today Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, announced they were calling for investigations into the federal response in Portland. The four political leaders said they were calling on the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to probe the unasked-for presence of the federal agents and those agents’ violent actions.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
“DHS and DOJ are engaged in acts that are horrific and outrageous in our constitutional democratic republic. First, they are deploying paramilitary forces with no identification indicating who they are or who they work for. Second, these agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification. Both of these acts are profound offenses against Americans. We demand not only that these acts end, but also that they remove their forces immediately from our state. Given the egregious nature of the violations against Oregonians, we are demanding full investigations by the Inspectors General of these departments.”
U.S Senator Ron Wyden
“Oregonians’ demand for answers about this occupying army and its paramilitary assaults in Portland at the direction of Donald Trump and Chad Wolf cannot be stonewalled. That’s not how it works in a democracy. It’s painfully clear this administration is focused purely on escalating violence without answering my repeated requests for why this expeditionary force is in Portland and under what constitutional authority. Simply put, the Office of Inspector General must investigate Trump’s assault on Americans’ constitutional rights now.”
It’s painfully clear this administration is focused purely on escalating violence without answering my repeated requests for why this expeditionary force is in Portland and under what constitutional authority.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 17, 2020
Representative Earl Blumenauer
“The jarring reports of federal law enforcement officers grabbing peaceful protestors off the street should alarm every single American. This is not the way a government operates in a functioning democracy. We are demanding an immediate Inspector General investigation into these incidents to get answers from the Trump administration and ensure these disturbing abuses of power stop immediately.”
Representative Suzanne Bonamici
“The overly aggressive conduct of federal officers in Portland is alarming and unconstitutional. Oregonians must be able to exercise their First Amendment rights safely, without being picked up and detained by unidentified federal officers. The President is intentionally provoking unrest and discord, and our community will not stand for it. He purports to be a law and order President, but his Administration’s actions are political bluster and are making our city and our country less safe. We will not rest until we get answers on behalf of Oregonians.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.
“I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way. This, coming from the same President who used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters in Washington, DC to engineer a photo opportunity.
“Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa.”