New local lawsuit challenges ‘violent and unlawful’ attacks on Portland protesters by Trump’s secret police force

"The administration can expect legal challenges, and, as we have seen in Portland, their attacks will only bring more people out to protest."

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SOURCECommon Dreams
Image Credit: Noah Berger/AP Photo

A pair of Oregon state lawmakers joined with a local lawyer, church, and advocacy group on Tuesday to bring yet another lawsuit against federal government agencies over President Donald Trump’s ongoing militarized crackdown on Black Lives Matter protests in Portland.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Protective Service, and U.S. Marshals Service are named as defendants in the new legal challenge led by state Reps. Janelle S. Bynum (D-Clackamas) and Karin A. Power (D-Milwaukie), attorney Sara D. Eddie, First Unitarian Church of Portland, and the Western States Center.

The lawsuit (pdf), filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, follows separate suits from the ACLU and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum initiated after videos and reporting started to emerge last week of unidentified federal agents driving around the city in unmarked vehicles and snatching people off the streets.

Although the actions of federal law enforcement agents in Portland have drawn intense condemnation on a national scale, Trump has not only ignored calls to stand down from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown—both Democrats—but has actually threatened to replicate the takeover in other major Democrat-led cities such Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Oakland, and Philadelphia.

In the new case, the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of violating the 10th Amendment, which was intended to limited the authority of the federal government by declaring that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

The plaintiffs’ complaint says that “while the federal government may protect its property and personnel, the federal government is constrained by the Constitution from policing the City of Portland broadly speaking, and there is no positive delegation of authority in any law that makes the federal government’s recent forays into general policing in Portland either legal or constitutional.”

“The power to engage in ordinary law enforcement is one of the long-recognized powers that belong to the states and to their municipalities,” Cliff Davidson, an attorney at Snell & Wilmer, the firm filing the suit, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

According to OPB:

The Western States Center, an Oregon-based activism group, alleges that the arrival of federal law enforcement reversed progress the organization had made in de-escalating conflict between the Portland Police Bureau and protesters. The organization said, as a result, it has had to expend significant resources to mitigate the harm caused by federal officers.

The Unitarian Church of Portland has a protest witness group that has been monitoring demonstrations. Its members allege participation has dropped notably since federal officers started making arrests on Portland city streets.

“There was not a similar drop when Portland Police Bureau maintained their role as the police in Portland, and federal law enforcement limited itself to protecting federal facilities and personnel,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also “contends federal officers, who have gone beyond the sidewalks outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, have encroached on state powers and violated the First Unitarian Church of Portland’s right to protest and practice social activism that are tenets of its faith and protected under the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause,” The Oregonian reported.

The plaintiffs in this case are seeking “a court order that restricts the federal officers’ actions to the federal courthouse and demands that the federal officers identify themselves and have probable cause to arrest anyone,” the newspaper added, noting that Rosenblum and the ACLU’s suits “are seeking temporary restraining orders to restrict federal law enforcement in Portland.”

The Tuesday filing was welcomed by Dr. Lisa Reynolds, a pediatrician and community activist who in May won a Democratic primary race for Oregon’s House District 36:

Meanwhile, national advocacy groups on Tuesday continued to condemn the “violent and unlawful” crackdown in Portland and Trump’s pledge to soon send federal agents to other cities—an effort critics warn “could be connected to a greater scheme designed to steal the November election” by sowing division and chaos across the country.

The New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the “militarized attacks on cities and protesters are symptoms of a rising and desperate authoritarianism from an out-of-control president looking to distract the country from systemic racism, the failing economy, and a brutal pandemic while shoring up his white supremacist base.”

“The administration can expect legal challenges, and, as we have seen in Portland, their attacks will only bring more people out to protest,” the center added, expressing support for “everyone taking to the streets in Portland, New York, and cities across the country calling for the abolition and defunding of police departments and justice for Black people murdered by law enforcement.”

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