Federal judge temporarily bars federal officers in Portland from taking actions against journalists, observers

A federal judge in Oregon on Thursday night issued a temporary restraining order against the federal agents deployed in Portland, prohibiting them from threatening to arrest, arresting, dispersing or using force against journalists and legal observers who are at the protests.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, and the restraining order acts against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Marshals Service. Portland police were already banned from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at the protests.

Per the order — issued by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon — the stationed federal officers also cannot seize any photography, audio- or video-recording equipment or press passes from the journalists and legal observers. Additionally, journalists and legal observers cannot be made to stop recording or photographing a protest.

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“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement.

“Federal agents from Trump’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking journalists and legal observers documenting protests. These are the actions of a tyrant, and they have no place anywhere in America,” Carson added. 

Black Lives Matter protests have filled the streets of downtown Portland since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May.

At times, the protests have led to the damage of federal property, which prompted DHS acting Security Chad WolfChad WolfSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Watch live: Acting DHS chief testifies on deployment of federal agents to protests The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE to deploy federal officers to the city in late June in an attempt to safeguard the affected government buildings.

Wolf last week called demonstrators a "violent mob" and "lawless anarchists," while President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE has used similar descriptions when talking about protesters nationwide.  

On Friday, reports emerged that non-specific camouflaged federal officers were grabbing and detaining protesters. Some reports described agents placing demonstrators in unmarked vans. 

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The move has sparked outrage from Democrats, Oregon local leaders, advocates and some Republicans.

Trump escalated federal law enforcement's involvement in local protests Monday when he signaled that he would send additional federal agents to other "Democratic" cities, saying that the agents in Portland were doing "a fantastic job."

“I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you,” Trump said. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess.”

Trump on Wednesday announced that he would be sending federal agents into Chicago and Albuquerque, claiming that the cities are plagued by "violent crime."

However, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has repeatedly urged the Trump administration not to deploy federal agents, asking the White House instead to focus on gun control.