Oregon sued the U.S. over the detention of residents during anti-racism protests in Portland, shortly after a judge ruled that journalists alleging local police had assaulted them could add federal agents to their own lawsuit.
In her suit against the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum alleges they have overstepped their powers in threatening, injuring or arresting protesters. The journalists made similar claims, saying police had assaulted them at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, coordinating their response with federal authorities.
Oregon cited two incidents it says took place in the past week. On July 12, a peaceful protester was struck in the head with an “impact weapon” and sustained severe injuries, according to the AG’s office. On Thursday, it says, “an unmarked minivan with undercover federal agents wearing generic green military fatigues” forcibly detained a second protester, who was later released.
The Oregon Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the July 12 incident, according to the AG.
“We are today asking the federal court to stop the federal police from secretly stopping and forcibly grabbing Oregonians off our streets,” Rosenblum said in a statement.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of DHS and a defendant in the suit, said in a statement that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
In a statement before the lawsuit, it said it “respects every American’s right to protest peacefully” but won’t tolerate violence. CBP agents had information that a protester “was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property,” it said.
“Once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob moved towards their location,” CBP said, adding that the agents had identified themselves and were wearing their official insignia. It said they moved the suspect “to a safer location for further questioning.”
The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service didn’t immediately respond to emails and calls after regular business hours seeking comment on Oregon’s lawsuit.
The ruling in the journalists’ lawsuit, by a federal judge in Portland, came a day after he ordered a preliminary injunction against the alleged conduct. The plaintiffs include the Portland Mercury newspaper and local magazine photographer Mathieu Lewis-Rolland. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit against the city last month on their behalf, made a request on Tuesday to amend the suit to include the new defendants.
Early on July 12, dozens of federal agents emerged from Portland police headquarters to begin “a campaign of wholesale violence against protesters and neutrals alike,” joined later by the local police, according to the revised complaint. Agents shot Lewis-Rolland with “impact munitions” 10 times as he was filming and photographing them, the plaintiffs alleged. They said agents had used rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators, reporters and photographers.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is out to “provoke confrontation for political purposes” and “putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a tweet Thursday.
The Portland police, the City of Portland, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service didn’t respond to an email, calls and voicemails seeking comment on the ruling.