PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Declaring President Trump is “trying to create riots across America through secret police tactics as a campaign strategy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley laid into the administration for deploying federal agents from a variety of different agencies into Portland after weeks of localized unrest.
Merkley, who spoke with KOIN 6 News from his office in Washington, addressed a number of issues related to the ongoing protests in Portland and the escalation that began when the federal agents arrived in the city. Here is a lightly edited transcript of the interview. (Watch the unedited interview above.)
He is one of the sponsors of the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which among other things, would require individual and agency ID on officers uniforms and prevent unmarked cars from being used.
“It’s standard procedure for dictators and authoritarian governments to use unmarked vans and unmarked cars and sweep people off the streets in this kind of secret police strategy, not the strategy here in America,” he said.
The head of the Customs and Border Patrol, Mark Morgan, told Merkley the federal agents in Portland have markings both for the organization and for the individual on their uniforms.
“He was either deeply (mis)informed based on the understanding of past practices or was misleading the American public,” Merkley said. “This is an outrageous tactic. It is completely unacceptable and it quite frankly derives from Trump’s admiration for authoritarian governments around the world that use this tactic and now he’s brought it to America. We must end it.”
The senator said he thinks it’s “outrageous” for CBP to have a 100-mile boundary for their jurisdiction, which means “for most of Oregon they can go anywhere and do anything they want. But my bill would say, you’re protecting federal properties, you’ve got to be on that federal property or the near perimeter. You want to send people into the streets outside that near perimeter or property you have to have the permission of the governor or the mayor. And you’ve got to have ID. You have to disclose to the American people how many people from what agency you’re sending to which cities.”
This bill has a significant chance of passing, he said.
“You have almost all Democrats have signed on to the bill since I introduced it 2 days ago. I’ve talked with a number of Republicans who support the bill. They’re not co-sponsoring but they will vote for it if we can get it to a vote.”
But Senate Republicans are blocking consideration of this amendment.
“If the Senate and House are doing their jobs, the deployment of secret police in our cities will be debated on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate. The challenge is — we’re not doing our job. And that speaks to the current leadership of the Senate and it speaks to the kind of rigged systems that have been put into place. So I’m going to find every opportunity to keep pushing. Americans do not want secret police patrolling their streets and throwing people into unmarked vans. And they do not want, basically, CBP agents doing crowd control and proceeding to beat up peaceful protesters.”
He also spoke about the video showing Chad Davis, a Navy veteran, being beaten by federal agens while standing with his arms at his side.
“This is outrageous conduct by secret police strategy under Trump and we have to end it.”
He also thanked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for filing a federal lawsuit over 1st Amendment and 4th Amendment issues.
“There is now concern across the nation because President Trump, after bragging about attacking Portland in a campaign appearance, proceeded to say he wanted to do the same thing in Baltimore, in Philadelphia, in New York City, in Detroit, in Chicago, in Oakland.
“He’s trying to create riots across America through secret police tactics as a campaign strategy. And I want all of America to understand what he’s up to. It’s absolutely unacceptable and we the people, as a democratic republic, have to stand together, every citizen, for the civil rights of all,” Merkley told KOIN 6 News.
Coronavirus relief package
“It’s been 2 months since the House passed the relief package known as the Heroes Act and it had a huge help for state and local government, which they need all across this country, supported by Democratic and Republican officials, from the governors down to the city councilors,” Merkley said. “It had $75 billion for testing and tracing, which is the only strategy that gets us ahead of the coronavirus.
“And in just a completely bizarre act, President Trump did ask that all the testing money be stripped out. It’s just hard to imagine what he’s thinking. I think it comes from his argument that if you test more people you get more positives and he wants to pretend the disease is gone. But it’s not gone. And the only way people quarantine is to know whether or not they are sick or even if they’re not symptomatic that they can have the disease and can spread it, so they have to quarantine. You have to test and you have to get the test results fast.
“By the way, I had pushed for a national strategy and required one in a previous amendment of a corona package, and the administration did produce, as required, their national strategy — and their national strategy was, in essence, let the states figure it out. This lack of national leadership means hundreds of thousands of more people being infected in American and tens of thousands more dying. It’s a complete abdication of leadership.”