State Watch

Oregon lawmakers call for DOJ, DHS inspectors general to investigate law enforcement presence in Portland

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Four Oregon lawmakers on Friday called on the internal watchdogs of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate federal law enforcement’s presence and practices in Portland amid rising protests in the city.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D) and Ron Wyden (D) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D) and Suzanne Bonamici (D) said they are making the request after federal officers shot a demonstrator in the head and reports emerged of unmarked federal agents detaining protesters and taking them to unmarked minivans.

“DHS and DOJ are engaged in acts that are horrific and outrageous in our constitutional democratic republic,” Merkley said. “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,” he added. “Given the egregious nature of the violations against Oregonians, we are demanding full investigations by the Inspectors General of these departments.”

The demands come amid lingering protests in Portland over the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May. Some protests have led to damage of federal buildings, prompting the administration to send in federal officers. Some demonstrators have also tried to make their own autonomous zone similar to the one that lasted for weeks in Seattle. 

Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf in a statement Thursday described protesters as a “violent mob,” though protests Thursday night were reported to be mainly peaceful.

Reports surfaced Friday morning of federal officers in unmarked military fatigues detaining demonstrators and driving around in unmarked vehicles.

“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,” Wyden said. “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.” 

The federal response has also received stiff pushback from other Oregon lawmakers.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said Thursday that he had told Wolf that “we do not need or want” assistance from federal officers. Gov. Kate Brown (D) later added that she told Wolf “that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets.”

Tags Chad Wolf Donald Trump Earl Blumenauer George Floyd Jeff Merkley Portland Portland protests Protests Ron Wyden Suzanne Bonamici United States Department of Homeland Security

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