Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Police confront demonstrators in Portland, Oregon on July 4, 2020. (Photo: John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

To End 'Unconstitutional Nightmare,' ACLU Sues Trump Administration Over Use of Secret Police in Portland

"This is a fight to save our democracy."

Jake Johnson

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon sued the Trump administration late Friday over its deployment of federal agents to Portland, where unidentified officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service have been detaining Black Lives Matter protesters without explanation and using indiscriminate force to crush demonstrations.

"This is police escalation on top of police escalation. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city."
—Kelly Simon, ACLU of Oregon

"This is a fight to save our democracy," Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement. "Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. This is police escalation on top of police escalation."

"These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city," Simon added. "We will continue to bring the full fire power of the ACLU to bear until this lawless policing ends."

The lawsuit (pdf) against DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service—filed on behalf of legal observers and journalists who were recently assaulted by federal agents in Portland—aims to "block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers." One of the plaintiffs, freelance photographer Matthew Lewis-Rolland, was shot in the back ten times with impact munitions during a recent demonstration.

The ACLU said the suit is "one of many" it plans to file against the Trump administration over its deployment of federal agents to Portland against the wishes of state and local political leaders, who have demanded the withdrawal of all federal law enforcement.

Federal officials have reportedly been patrolling Portland in unmarked vehicles and arresting demonstrators since at least July 14.

Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said "what is happening in Portland is an unconstitutional nightmare."

"This is not law and order. This is lawlessness," said Eidelman. "The ACLU will not let the government respond to protests against police brutality with still more brutality. We will continue to hold law enforcement at all levels of government accountable, just as we have nationwide."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·


'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·


Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo