NYT: Fed agents in Portland not trained for demonstrations

Protests

In this photo provided by Doug Brown, agents from different components of the Department of Homeland Security are deployed to protect a federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., Sunday, July 5, 2020. Protesters who have clashed with authorities in Portland are facing off not just against city police but a contingent of federal agents who reflect a new priority for the Department of Homeland Security: preventing what President Donald Trump calls “violent mayhem.” The agents clad in military-style uniforms include members of an elite Border Patrol tactical unit, and their deployment to protect federal buildings and monuments is a departure for an agency created to focus on threats from abroad. (Doug Brown via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security warned that federal agents deployed to protect federal buildings in Portland did not have specific training in riot control or mass demonstrations, according to a report first published by the New York Times.

The document the NY Times obtained a copy of was dated Thursday, July 16, and was for Chad Wolf, the acting secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. He arrived in Portland that same day, hours after issuing a statement condemning ongoing violence displayed at protests in Portland.

“The memo, seemingly anticipating future encounters with protesters in other cities as the department follows President Trump’s guidance to crack down on unrest, warns: ‘Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.'”

The presence of federal officers at ongoing demonstrations in downtown Portland has sparked outrage from local and state leaders.

Federal authorities have used tear gas on protesters repeatedly and are not held to the same use of force restrictions as Portland Police Bureau officers, who are under a temporary restraining order that limits the use of tear gas. A man was seriously injured at a July 12 demonstration outside the federal courthouse when he was struck in the head with a crowd control munition that was fired by a federal officer.

The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the Thursday memo, according to the NY Times.

On Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Earl Blumenauer issued a joint statement on the Trump Administration’s actions in Portland.

“As our nation mourns the loss of our colleague and beloved civil rights leader John Lewis, we are again reminded of the immense power of peaceful protest in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality.  Yet time and time again, the Trump Administration shows its lack of respect for the dignity and First Amendment rights of all Americans.

“Last month, the Administration tear-gassed peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C.  Now, videos show them kidnapping protestors in unmarked cars in Portland – all with the goal of inflaming tensions for their own gain.  While Portland is the President’s current target, any city could be next.

“We live in a democracy, not a banana republic.  We will not tolerate the use of Oregonians, Washingtonians – or any other Americans – as props in President Trump’s political games.  The House is committed to moving swiftly to curb these egregious abuses of power immediately.”

On Friday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced the state Department of Justice will file a federal lawsuit against federal agencies for allegedly seizing and detaining protesters in Portland without probable cause.

Federal agents from both Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection were confirmed to be on the streets of Portland. Those agencies plus the US Marshals Service and the Federal Protection Service are named in the federal lawsuit filed by Rosenblum.

Gov. Kate Brown, Mayor Ted Wheelers, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici have called for investigations into the tactics and deployment of the federal agents into Portland. Brown admitted she doesn’t have the authority to order the troops to leave, though she has made it clear she does not want them here in Portland.

US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams has also called for an investigation into the tactics of the federal officers.

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