Portland Protests Grow After Trump Deploys Federal Agents

Date: 2020-07-24 05:45:45

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Protests continue in Portland, Oregon, where the use of federal agents against the will of local officials has caused protests to grow in size.

“We are the human race! Black lives matter,” protesters chant.

Federal agents deployed to Portland, Oregon, by the Trump administration were barred by a judge from arresting, threatening or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at Black Lives Matter protests without a reason for the next two weeks.

The temporary order is the first victory among legal challenges to the federal government’s crackdown on protesters who have taken to the streets for weeks. It comes after more than a dozen journalists and legal observers claimed they were tear gassed or shot with munitions by federal agents despite being clearly identifiable.

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case was initially brought against the city of Portland’s police force in June for allegedly roughing up journalists. The federal agents were added to the case on July 17.

President Donald Trump deployed agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service amid the sometimes violent protests in Portland, part of a nationwide outcry following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. The administration has defended sending in the federal agents, saying local police couldn’t keep the protests under control. Trump has said he would send federal officers to Chicago and other cities as well, drawing criticism from local officials, Democrats, civil libertarians and others.

“Let us go in, we’ll we’ll clean it up, we’ll clean it up,” Trump said Thursday in an interview on Fox News. The president told network host Sean Hannity, “In Portland we had to do it,” and called the protesters “anarchists.”

A different federal judge is weighing a request from Oregon’s attorney general for a court order prohibiting U.S. agents from detaining civilians without probable cause or a warrant.

Noah Berger said in court filings he was on assignment covering the protests for the Associated Press on July 19 when he was assaulted by U.S. agents. Despite showing his press pass, moving away from the crowd and yelling he was a journalist, “One of the federal agents rushed and began whipping me with his baton. Two other federal agents joined him. They surrounded me, and struck me with their batons at least 3 or 4 times.” Afterward, the agents blasted him with pepper spray, he said.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said that without a temporary restraining order, the federal agents will “continue to target journalists and legal observers and require them to disperse or face force and violence by federal officers, even when the journalists and legal observers are not engaged in any harmful or illegal conduct.”

“The threatened future harm is not speculative or hypothetical,” Simon wrote in the order.

Federal agents threw flashbang grenades at photojournalist Alex Milan Tracy, fired smoke grenades at Kat Mahoney, an independent attorney who attended protests wearing a vest identifying her as an “ACLU legal observer,” and shot photojournalist John Rudoff with a 40mm rubber bullet, Simon said. Both photojournalists were wearing helmets and vests identifying themselves as “Press,” according to the complaint by journalists and legal observers.

The government argued in court that it would be hard to differentiate between protesters and journalists or legal observers when situations escalate and agents are required to make “split second judgments.” Andrew Warden, a lawyer for the U.S., said it was “unrealistic” to ask the agents to verify press passes in situations where “lasers are being shot at them to blind them” or they’re being targeted by fireworks.

“Everyone is wearing masks, helmets, face coverings. And moreover, nearly everyone appears to have a camera or a cell phone out to record things, further making it difficult to distinguish legitimate journalists from others,” Warden said.

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