PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The federal response to the ongoing protests in Portland is a result of President Donald Trump’s threat to “‘take over’ American cities” and desire to create a national police force, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Don’t Shoot Portland, Wall of Moms and other individual protesters claims.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday and names Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr among other defendants, alleges Trump consulted with Barr and Wolf to use the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing “as an opportunity to use federal forces — not to defend civil rights, but to quell the protests.”
“President Trump’s response to the civil rights protests, and specifically his insistence that they be shut down, stands in sharp contrast to his response to anti-quarantine protesters earlier this year,” the lawsuit stated.
Trump’s address outside of a church on June 1, in which he proclaimed himself as the “President of law and order” and promised to deploy federal troops to cities and states refusing “to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents” after having federal agents tear gas peaceful protesters outside of the White House, are among the examples cited by the lawsuit.
“It is not coincidental that the president’s threats to deploy the military and armed federal officers have been aimed at liberal and progressive cities that he views as home to his political opponents,” the lawsuit argued.
“This is an emergency situation and people have—not only are their Constitutional rights being violated, actively, but they are also in physical danger and in need of protection, both for their rights and their bodies,” said Holly Martinez, an associate attorney with Perkins Coie LLP, the firm that is representing the plaintiffs in the case.
The suit also individually names Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark A. Morgan, Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence, Federal Protective Service Director L. Eric Patterson and U.S. Marshals Director Donald Washington, in addition to listing the federal agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Protective Service.
The lawsuit also alleges the Trump administration’s practice of having officials in “acting” roles instead of being confirmed by the U.S. Senate as violating federal law, singling out Wolf, who has served as acting DHS chief since November 2019, and Cuccinelli, among others. The last Senate-confirmed DHS chief was Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned in April 2019.
“The large number of acting officials at DHS, and throughout the Trump administration, is part of a deliberate strategy, as the president explained in 2019: ‘I like “acting” because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility,” the lawsuit said.
“The Trump Administration has threatened to use these same techniques and tactics in other cities, in other liberal cities, and so taking the lawsuit out of Portland and into DC was a strategic move for that reason as well,” said Associate Attorney Rian Peck of Perkins Coie LLP.
Monday night is expected to be the 60th consecutive night of protests in Portland. The demonstrations in downtown Portland outside of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse have intensified after the arrival and deployment of federal officers, who have routinely used tear gas, flash bangs, pepper balls and other crowd control munitions against protesters. Local, state and federal leaders have roundly condemned the presence of officers from Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals and Federal Protective Services in the streets.
Earlier on Monday, it was reported that more federal agents may be heading to Portland as the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, sent a letter along with the mayor of other cities asking congressional leaders to make it illegal for the federal government to send militarized federal officers to cities that don’t want them.
Read the lawsuit below: