Federal agents 'abuse power' in Portland protester arrests

Police arrest demonstrators as Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrate in Portland, Oregon on July 4, 2020 for the thirty-eighth day in a row at Portland's Justice Center and throughout PortlandImage copyright
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Federal agents have been called in by President Trump amid ongoing demonstrations

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has accused federal agents in unmarked cars who apparently detained protesters in Portland of a “blatant abuse of power”.

Federal officers, deployed by US President Donald Trump, have also fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions into crowds of demonstrators.

Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called the protesters a “violent mob”.

Activists have been protesting against police brutality since George Floyd’s killing in police custody on 25 May.

What happened?

A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) contained detailed accounts of witnesses who had seen federal law enforcement dressed in camouflage emerge from unmarked vehicles, grab protesters without explanation and drive off.

The last week has seen a violent escalation between protesters and federal agents, deployed two weeks ago by Mr Trump to quell civil unrest.

Since at least 14 July, OPB reports, federal agents have been jumping out of unmarked vehicles throughout the city, and grabbing protesters seemingly without cause.

Video checked by the broadcaster shows a protester, Mark Pettibone, describe how on 15 July he was “basically tossed” into a van containing armed people in body armour.

Mr Pettibone said he was taken to a holding cell in a federal courthouse, where he was read his arrest rights. After he declined to answer questions, he was released without any citation or arrest record.

What has the Trump administration said?

Arriving in the city on Thursday to meet federal law enforcement, the acting secretary of homeland security defended the agents against the assembled “anarchists”.

In a nearly 1,700-word statement, Mr Wolf blamed state and city authorities for failing to “restore order”.

He said their response had “emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day”.

“The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days,” he wrote.

“Each night the violent anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

Mr Wolf’s comments echo those of Mr Trump. This week, the president applauded the efforts of federal agents in Portland, saying officers had done a “great job”.

“Portland was totally out of control, and they went in, and I guess we have many people right now in jail,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “We very much quelled it, and if it starts again, we’ll quell it again very easily.”

source: bbc.com