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Unidentified federal officers detain a protester in Portland, Oregon on July 16, 2020. (Photo: Twitter/Screengrab)

Trump Condemned for Authoritarian 'Abuse of Power' as Secret Federal Police Snatch Protesters Off Portland Streets

"Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable."

Jake Johnson

Oregon's Democratic governor and other state lawmakers are demanding that President Donald Trump immediately remove all federal law enforcement officials from the streets of Portland after alarming video footage posted online late Thursday showed unidentified officers dressed in combat fatigues arresting Black Lives Matter protesters without explanation and throwing them into unmarked vehicles.

"This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. "The president is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government."

"These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence. If Wolf is coming here to inflame the situation so Donald Trump can look like a tough guy, he should turn around and leave our city now."
—Sen. Jeff Merkley

Brown said she told Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to "remove all federal officers from our streets" but he refused, claiming that Portland "has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob."

Wolf's response, said Brown, shows "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."

"This, coming from the same President who used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C. to engineer a photo opportunity," she added.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday that "federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14."

"Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off," OPB reported.

In response to one such video, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted that "authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters."

"These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end," Merkley added.

On Thursday night, federal law enforcement officials fired tear gas and impact munitions into crowds of demonstrators gathered in Portland to protest the police killing of George Floyd.

During protests over the weekend, a federal agent shot a 26-year-old peaceful demonstrator in the head with a munition, fracturing his skull.

"Federal forces shot an unarmed protester in the face," Merkley tweeted Thursday. "These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence. If Wolf is coming here to inflame the situation so Donald Trump can look like a tough guy, he should turn around and leave our city now."

In response to the incident, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined Oregon Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici in demanding an full investigation and accountability for the officer who fired the munition.

"In recent weeks, the federal government has deployed to Portland a number of DOJ and DHS officers," the lawmakers wrote. "This politically driven federal response is intolerable."

Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement Friday that "what is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the United States."

"Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping," said Carson. "The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered."

"Protesters in Portland have been shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, and repeatedly tear gassed by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents," Carson added. "We won't rest until they are gone."

This story has been updated with comment from the ACLU of Oregon.


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