‘Oregonians demand answers about paramilitary assaults’

2020 Protests

Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, Bonamici want investigations

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Four of Oregon’s federal representatives want investigations into the “unrequested presence and violent actions of federal forces in Portland.” Additionally, the US Attorney for Oregon also wants an investigation into the actions of Homeland Security personnel.

Federal officers assigned to the Department of Homeland Security have been in Portland over the past week and have engaged protesters in downtown Portland. It was also confirmed Friday that Border Patrol agents are also in Portland working alongside the DHS officers.

Last weekend, one protester was shot in the head by an impact munition and was seriously wounded. At least twice this week, federal agents used tear gas and other crowd control devices to break up protesters. And federal agents have been seen detaining protesters and putting them into unmarked vehicles.

Thursday, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf came to Portland to meet with officials, many of whom declined. He later tweeted, “I offered DHS support to help locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home. That’s just not going to happen on my watch.”

Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, Bonamici demand investigation

Oregon’s US senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley along with US Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici now want the US Department of Justice and the Inspector General’s office to investigate the federal agents presence in Portland.

They earlier sent a letter to Wolf and Attorney General William Barr condemning the escalation of violent tactics against protesters.

“DHS and DOJ are engaged in acts that are horrific and outrageous in our constitutional democratic republic,” Merkley said in a release. “First, they are deploying paramilitary forces with no identification indicating who they are or who they work for. Second, these agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification. Both of these acts are profound offenses against Americans.

Wyden said, “Oregonians’ demand for answers about this occupying army and its paramilitary assaults in Portland at the direction of Donald Trump and Chad Wolf cannot be stonewalled. That’s not how it works in a democracy.”

Blumenauer added, “We are demanding an immediate Inspector General investigation into these incidents to get answers from the Trump administration and ensure these disturbing abuses of power stop immediately.”

“The President is intentionally provoking unrest and discord, and our community will not stand for it. He purports to be a law and order President, but his Administration’s actions are political bluster and are making our city and our country less safe,” Bonamici said. “We will not rest until we get answers on behalf of Oregonians.”

US Attorney weighs in

For his part, US Attorney Billy Williams said the federal officers have “protected the federal courthouse from incursion and fire…rebuffed efforts to enter the building by force…(and) endeavored to find the individuals within the crowd who are committing these violent acts.”

But he said in some instances their conduct has been questioned. An investigation into the shooting of the protester is already underway, Williams said.

“Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protestors without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel,” he said in a statement. “As US Attorney, I will continue to work in concert with local and federal law enforcement and city and community leaders to bring about an end to this violence.”

Wyden on ‘way to turn this around’

In an interview with KOIN 6 News Wyden spoke about the reports of federal officers picking up protesters in unmarked vans, then releasing them later because they didn’t do anything wrong.

“(The Trump Administration) are just hands off in regards to coronavirus,” Wyden said. “States and localities are on their own and then they’re saying with respect to Black Lives Matter, not only are they not going to be hands off, they’re going to be hands on, and they’re going to come in with clenched fists and the military.”

He said the “way to turn this around is not to say, as Donald Trump and Chad Wolf have said, is that everybody is a violent anarchist, but to recognize when you have anarchists, where are they from, I think they basically tried to infiltrate a lot of the Black Lives Matter. Peaceful protesters. I’ve made it clear that I’m opposed of violence in any shape or form.”

KOIN 6 News anchor Dan Tilkin contributed to this report

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