US attorney calls for investigation into unmarked federal agents arresting protesters in Oregon

The U.S. Attorney for the Oregon District has requested an investigation into the unmarked, camouflaged federal officers who have been picking up and detaining protesters in Portland.

"Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protestors without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel," U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said in a statement Friday.

Federal authorities, clad in unmarked military fatigues have reportedly been grabbing and detaining protesters in unmarked vans.

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Tensions have escalated between law enforcement and demonstrators since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody in late May. The protests have dominated the Portland area for well over a month, and at times, have lead to the damage of federal property. 

These actions have prompted acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf to send federal officers to the Rose City in recent weeks. 

Wolf in a statement Thursday described protesters as a "violent mob," though protests Thursday night were reported to be mainly peaceful.

Williams's request comes after several of Oregon's Democratic congressional lawmakers expressed outrage over the incidents. 

Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici are also requesting that the events be reviewed.

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“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. Given the egregious nature of the violations against Oregonians, we are demanding full investigations by the Inspectors General of these departments.” 

 
"I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets," Brown tweeted Thursday. "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."
 
In a tweet of his own two days before that, Wheeler said that he had told Wolf that "we do not need or want" assistance from federal officers.
 
President Trump has repeatedly threatened to send federal forces into the cities that have been gripped by demonstrations in the months since Floyd's killing, condemning some of the protesters as anarchists and looters.