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

"This is a fight to save our democracy."

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

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."

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