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ACLU urges court to hold federal agents in Portland in contempt

ACLU urges court to hold federal agents in Portland in contempt
© Mason Trinca/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Oregon called on a federal court on Tuesday to hold federal agents in contempt for alleged attacks on journalists and legal observers at protests in Portland, Ore.

The ACLU of Oregon asserts that several federal law enforcement officers violated the restraining order issued last week banning officers from threatening to arrest, arresting, dispersing or using force against journalists and legal observers present at the demonstrations. 

In a Tuesday motion, the ACLU of Oregon alleges the federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Marshals Service violated the restraining order “within hours” and “have continued to do so every night since.”

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The motion requests the court order all of the agents who allegedly violated the restraining order to “be identified, personally appear, and be prohibited from participating in any armed operations within the District of Oregon.”

The group is also calling for federal agents’ commanders, including acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE and acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, to “personally appear before the court” to “show cause as to why they should not be sanctioned for contempt,” according to the release.

“These violations are not inadvertent,” the motion states. “They are intentional acts by a lawless president, who has sent his paramilitary forces to shoot up the streets of Portland, choke downtown in a haze of toxic chemical fumes, and generate reelection soundbites—in blatant disdain of public safety, the rule of law, and the most fundamental principles of our Constitution.”

The motion states that videos, photos and accounts show federal authorities sprayed and shot projectiles at “clearly marked” legal observers and press. The ACLU of Oregon filed declarations from five journalists and legal observers who detailed the alleged assaults on them by federal officers.

“As a result of the federal agents’ defiance of the Court’s order, the free press remains unsafe while trying to document and observe the cataclysmic violence that federal authorities are inflicting on Portland,” the motion says. “The federal agents—and their commanders … are not above the law.”

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The ACLU of Oregon filed the lawsuit requesting the restraining order on arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon last week. 

Protests have continued in Portland, calling for racial justice since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in May. The demonstrations have at times turned violent, prompting administration officials and President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE to condemn them. 

The president ordered federal authorities to be deployed to the city to quell ongoing protests earlier this month. Last week, he indicated he would send additional federal officers to “Democratic” cities, including Chicago and Albuquerque, to crack down on the protests and violent crime.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit challenging law enforcement’s treatment of protesters in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square on June 1, when they were forcibly removed ahead of the city’s curfew. The group also filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of volunteer medics who allege that local and federal law enforcement attacked them at Portland protests.

The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment. The U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.