Few top Dems wrote a letter to the inspectors general of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security demanding an investigation into the use of federal agents in Portland.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney wrote to Inspectors General Michael Horowitz and Joseph Cuffari on Sunday requesting a review of the use of agents from the DOJ and the DHS to quash violent protests in Portland over the weekend.
“As we continue to stand with our fellow citizens protesting systemic racism and police brutality throughout the country, we are increasingly alarmed at the Trump Administration’s use of federal law enforcement to violate the civil rights of our constituents. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appear to have increasingly abused emergency authorities to justify the use of force against Americans exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” they wrote, as reported be the Washington Examiner.
“Reports from Oregon this week make clear that this misuse of resources and personnel remains a growing threat. Accordingly, we write to request an investigation by your offices into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to suppress First Amendment protected activities in Washington, D.C., Portland, and other communities across the United States,” they added.
The Democrats pointed to reports that unidentified federal officers were arresting protesters and placing them in unmarked vans throughout Portland last week. Officials in Oregon reportedly had not requested assistance from the federal government to contain the protests, which have been taking place for weeks.
The lawmakers noted that President Trump has used federal law enforcement to clear protesters before, specifically citing the removal of protesters prior to his walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House in June.
They also highlighted the use of federal law enforcement to clear protests near the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock protests in 2017.
“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” they wrote. “Citizens are concerned that the Administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country. Therefore, we ask that you commence your review of these issues immediately.”
Portland has been experiencing violent protests for several weeks in concert with other nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice take place following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, in May. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told CNN on Sunday that he believes the protests in his city have gotten worse because of federal law enforcement.
“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave,” Wheeler said.
Billy Williams, the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, has also requested an investigation into the use of federal agents in Portland, echoing many of the same concerns as the House Democrats.