In Portland, Oregon, federal law enforcement officers admitted to using unmarked vehicles to round up protesters and detain them. In videos of these "snatch and grab" incidents, officers can be seen driving up to people and carrying them off without any of the typical legal protocols.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Friday evening in response to the heavy-handed police tactics, saying that, "Federal agents are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. This is not law and order. This is lawlessness — and it must be stopped."
BREAKING: The @ACLU_OR is taking federal authorities in Portland, Oregon, to court.
This is a fight to save our democracy. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from the city.
— ACLU (@ACLU) July 17, 2020
In a statement on Friday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that they were snatching people off the street, but insisted that they had reason to do so. They claim that the people who they arrested were suspected of assaulting federal agents or destroying federal property.
"Once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob moved towards their location. For everyone's safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning," the statement said, according to USAToday.
The statement also claimed that the agents were identified as border patrol on their clothing, but the statement did not address the use of unmarked vans, or the snatch and grab tactics.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Border Patrol agents have been deployed to Portland to protect federal property during the protests.
"While the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated. Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as injure federal officers and agents. These criminal actions will not be tolerated," the agency said.
What legal authorities require officers to share their identities, and are there any consequences for failing to do so?
Here’s Rachel Brown and Coleman Saunders from last month here on Lawfare:https://t.co/ISZijFhXpd
— Lawfare (@lawfareblog) July 17, 2020
However, witnesses say that some of the people who were arrested were nowhere near federal property, and it is not clear if everyone arrested was actually suspected of committing crimes. Peaceful protesters are often caught in the crossfire when situations like this happen.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler demanded that Trump remove the federal agents from the city.
“Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city,” Wheeler said at a press conference.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown accused Trump of looking for a confrontation in the hopes of winning political points with his conservative base.
Brown’s spokesman, Charles Boyle, said that federal agents were making arrests without probable cause.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she would file a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, and Federal Protection Service for violating the civil rights of the state's residents, and will seek a temporary restraining order against the agencies.
Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, compared the actions of the federal agents to kidnapping.
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping. The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered,” Carson said.
At least 13 people were charged with crimes by federal agents, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.