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 A federal officer guards the interior of the Edith Green - Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon. Federal agents tear gassed protestors in Bend, Oregon Wednesday after immigration officials detained two local residents. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Outrage in Oregon After Federal Agents Teargas Protesters Who 'Held the Line Against Injustice' by Blocking Bus With Deportees

"The actions by federal troops are all too familiar, designed for political headlines, meant to intimidate & strike fear into our communities instead of keeping us safe."

Lisa Newcomb

A legal battle continued Friday after a dramatic scene played out in Bend, Oregon earlier this week in which local community members who tried to peacefully prevent the deportation of two men by U.S. border officials were attacked and pepper-sprayed by federal riot police.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) attempted to deport Arturo Cruz Sanchez, 34, and Marco Zeferino Rios, 32, Wednesday afternoon, and loaded them onto a bus in a hotel parking lot. 

Local activists caught wind of the deportation, and one began livestreaming from outside the bus, which eventually drew hundreds of locals to protest the detention.

ICE asserted the detention was part of the agency's mission to "arrest criminal aliens presenting a danger to public safety," and that the two men they apprehended "had a history of criminal violent behavior." The Bend Bulletin, however, reported neither man had a federal criminal record.

"The actions by federal troops are all too familiar, designed for political headlines, meant to intimidate and strike fear into our communities instead of keeping us safe," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said, criticizing the Trump Administration in a series of tweets Thursday. "To separate Oregon families is unacceptable and heartless. Especially during a pandemic."

The protest unfolded Wednesday and lasted late into the night, as locals swarmed the bus containing the detainees, with some visibly frustrated by the presence of ICE.

"Probably one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen," local restaurant manager Nate Montgomery, who was at the scene, told Vice. "At one point, someone took a Sharpie and wrote 'Fuck ICE' all the way down the side of the bus. Then five Hispanic girls, in their early teens, started scrubbing it off. We asked why they were doing that, and they said ‘This is just going to make it so much worse for us'."

As the hours wore on, however, federal agents descended on the site and eventually fired pepper spray at demonstrators.

"They came in, and compared to what's been happening in Portland, they weren't nearly as violent as what's been happening there," Montgomery said. 

A federal judge Thursday denied a request for an emergency temporary restraining order on the detention of the men, filed by Innovation Law Lab, an immigrant rights advocacy group. 

"It's not been made clear that defendants did something wrong or even out of the ordinary, honestly," U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut said in her ruling. Advocates argued federal agents violated the rights of the detainees by not providing them legal counsel. 

Local officials, including the county's district attorney, joined Brown in condemning federal agents and celebrating protestors.

"Federal troops strormed the buses in full tactical gear. Unnecessary and outrageous. Never did I think I would see this in my country," John Hummel, Deschutes County district attorney tweeted.  Hummel later added, "I've never been so disgusted by my government and so proud of my community."

The clash in Bend comes as the Trump Administration continues to deploy federal agents in cities across the U.S., mainly in response to Black Lives Matter protests. Earlier this week, citing actions against BLM protestors, mistreatment of detainees at ICE detention facilities and other egregious actions, the ACLU called for the breakup of the Department of Homeland Security, under which ICE and Customs and Border Protection fall.

The ACLU of Oregon tweeted a video of the Wednesday protests, accusing President Donald Trump and ICE of "intentionally creating fear and chaos." 

The families of the two detained men issued a statement urging compassion and condemning the treatment of the men. 

"We are simply trying to provide for our families, but because of the color of our skin and our country of origin, that is not what has happened here today," the two men's families said in a statement that ACLU of Oregon posted to Twitter. "We are human beings trying to survive."

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