- Oregon lawmakers are decrying the Trump administration’s “authoritarian tactics” in Portland.
- This week, federal law enforcement agents in unmarked vehicles have begun detaining alleged protesters without formally arresting them, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
- In a July 17 letter to Attorney General William Barr, Oregon’s Democratic lawmakers call for the immediate removal of the agents, who are ostensibly there to protect federal property.
- The fact “that neither the public, nor local leaders, nor federal representatives for the people of Oregon know who these agents are despite direct inquiries from us and others speaks to the intentional obfuscation of their roles,” the lawmakers wrote.
- “These actions are chillingly reminiscent of autocratic governments that ‘disappear’ critics and opponents,” they added.
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Oregon’s two Democratic senators are expressing alarm over the federal government’s “authoritarian tactics” on the streets of Portland, arguing that the recent detention of alleged protesters befits a dictatorship, not a democracy.
As Oregon Public Broadcasting reported this week, federal law enforcement officers – wearing camouflage and driving unmarked vehicles – have begun seizing people in an effort to enforce US President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding the protection of federal property.
“It’s horrifying and I think as Americans we’ve read about things like this happening in other countries, you know, in textbooks about the 70s, 80s,” Portland resident Connor O’Shea told Reuters. O’Shea, who has participated in peaceful protests, said he was chased by agents in an unmarked car on Wednesday.
His friend, Mark Pettibone, said he feared they were being kidnapped by a far-right militia. “It felt like I was being hunted for no reason,” Pettibone told The New York Times. “It feels like fascism.”
Federal officers have also been captured shoving medics and shooting a protester in the head with a less-than-lethal munition, Reuters noted.
US Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service have all deployed personnel in the city, which has seen nightly protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In a July 17 letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and US Attorney General William Barr, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, joined by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, demand the removal of such "federal paramilitary forces from our state" - a call echoed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
The fact "that neither the public, nor local leaders, nor federal representatives for the people of Oregon know who these agents are despite direct inquiries from us and others speaks to the intentional obfuscation of their roles," the lawmakers wrote. "These actions are chillingly reminiscent of autocratic governments that 'disappear' critics and opponents."
"We live in a democratic republic, not an authoritarian police state," they continue, "and we cannot allow our cities to become occupied zones."
In a July 16 statement, DHS Acting Secretary Wolf justified the deployment by arguing that Portland had been "under siege" by "a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city." The statement refers to "anarchists" 72 times.
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