The US Attorney for the Oregon District called for an investigation into masked, camouflaged federal agents without identification who have arrested Black Lives Matter protesters and hauled them into unmarked vans – prompting outrage from local officials who’ve repeatedly ask officer leave the state.
The investigation request by US Attorney Billy Williams comes as volatile clashes between federal agents and civilians escalate on the 50th night of protests in the city.
The concerning reports coming out of Portland have sparked tension between President Trump and Oregon officials, who have repeatedly blamed any bloodshed on him after he deployed federal agents without their consent.
Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racism continued on Friday in Portland, Oregon, for the 50th straight night of demonstrations since George Floyd, an unarmed Black father-of-five, died while in police custody two months ago (pictured)
Tensions in Portland have undoubtedly escalated with the arrival of federal agents from the US Department of Homeland Security, deployed under the Trump administration over what they perceive as a lack of leadership and law enforcement in the city. Pictured: A proteser reacts to pepper spray outside the Multnomah County Justice Center.
Several local Oregon politicians have blasted the arrival of federal agents (pictured center), who are not required to follow the same policing restrictions as local authorities and can use methods like tear gas (pictured)
The US Attorney for the Oregon District Billy Williams on Friday requested that an investigation be launched into the conduct of federal agents in Portland after two residents appeared to be arrested without probable cause
Several Black Lives Matter protesters and residents in Portland have reported seeing masked federal agents, wearing camouflage and without proper identification, arresting demonstrators without explanation and hauling them into the back of unmarked minivans
Pictured: One woman holds a photo of Breonna Taylor, an Black American woman from Louisville, Kentucky, who was brutally shot dead by plain clothed authorities in March
And the actions of federal agents, who aren’t required to follow local policing restrictions, have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the Department of Homeland Security.
But even so, protesters aren’t backing down and have created their own autonomous zone called ‘CLAT,’ or Chinook Land Autonomous Territory across the street from the federal justice center.
Williams on Friday said that he called for an investigation after circulating reports showed unidentified federal agents arresting two Black Lives Matter protesters without probable cause.
‘Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protesters 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,’ wrote Williams in the shocking statement.
Video of the masked agents was shared by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who condemned the alleged actions in a tweet and furthered his attack against the Trump administration.
In the footage, two federal agents wearing camouflage briskly walk towards two protesters on a desolate Portland street this week.
‘What are you doing? Use your words,’ the camera woman says, as other nearby witnesses question what the agents are doing,
The camera pans to show a protester, dressed in all black and wearing a face mask, with his hands up in the air.
Footage shared by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and others on social media appeared to show two federal agents, who do not identify themselves or explain their actions, arresting a man this week in Portland
Throughout the recorded exchange, the federal agents never reveal what sparked the arrest or what the unidentified man was being taken into custody for
Without any explanation, or even a word, the two federal agents arrest the man and escort him towards the unmarked minivan.
‘Where are you taking him? What is going on?’ witnesses ask the agents. ‘You just violated their rights.’
The agents place the man into the back of the vehicle and drive away.
A similar incident happened to Portland resident Mark Pettibone, 29, who told CNN that he was ‘kidnapped off the street in my own city for non-violently protesting and showing up in solidarity.’
‘About four people just out of the van that pulled up in front of me, and my first reaction was I tried to get away.’
Pettibone was walking with his friend, Conner O’Shea,’ when a group of protesters warned them about mysterious minivans stocked with federal agents driving around the area, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
‘I see guys in camo,’ said O’Shea. ‘Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, “Oh s***. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.”‘
The two federal agents take the unidentified Black Lives Matter protester to an unmarked, grey minivan and drive away (pictured)
Witnesses have said that agents are also detaining people who are simply near federal property and it’s unclear if the people detained engaged in criminal activity
Both Pettibone and O’Shea believe they were targeted for wearing black cloths, but O’Shea managed to avoid arrest while Pettibine was taken into custody.
‘I am basically tossed into the van,’ said Pettibone. ‘And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.’
During this time, Pettibone said none of the agents identified themselves as federal officers or gave any detail about the arrest.
Pettibone, still blinded be his beanie hat, said agents drove around downtown a bit longer before they escorted him inside the federal courthouse.
‘It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,’ said Pettibone.
‘One of them said, ‘This is a whole lot of nothing.’
He was later put in a cell, read his Miranda Rights and interviewed by authorities. Pettibone was released 90 minutes later without receiving any paperwork, citation or reason for his arrest.
‘I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time and that apparently is grounds for detaining me,’ said Pettibone.
The Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse was covered in graffiti reading ‘F*** 12,’ ‘All Cops are B******’ and ‘PDX hats cops’ by Black Lives Matter protesters on Friday. In Portland, federal buildings have been a frequent target of protesters.
Pictured: a Black Lives Matter protester holds a fan reading ‘[All Cops are B******] with a fist in the air during late night demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, on Friday
A perimeter has reportedly been established around Portland’s first autonomous zone, CLAT,’ or Chinook Land Autonomous Territory,’ after the police-free zone was built this Tuesday in Lownsdale Park
Since the beginning of nationwide protests on Memorial Day, Portland has held demonstrations for 50 nights straight as protesters deface federal buildings and demand changes to local law enforcement
Pictured: One demonstrator wearing a face shield holds a cardboard sign reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘We Will Not Stop’ while marching with hundreds of other residents in Portland on Friday night
Pettibone’s incident comes after local officials were outraged over cell phone footage that showed 29-year-old Donovan La Bella, a peaceful protester in Portland this week, being shot in the head with a ‘rubber bullet’ while only armed with a music speaker. La Bella suffered a fractured skull and bled out onto the concrete for some time.
Trump had previously vowed to ‘dominate’ the protesters with federal agents after he displayed a heavy-handed, militarized approach to quelling protests.
The US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that they were involved in some Portland arrests, but it’s unclear which other agencies may be invovled.
‘[Customs and Border Protection] will continue to arrest the violent criminals that are destroying federal property & injuring our agents/officers in Portland. CBP will restore and maintain law & order,’ wrote Mark Morgan, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan, confirmed on Twitter that Border Protection agents were in Portland and had conducted arrests
But according to Sen. Merkley, such actions are things done by ‘authoritarian governments.’
‘Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end,’ wrote Merkley.
Merkley was just one of Oregon politicians to lash out at Trump, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who told the President ‘Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city.’
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley shared video unidentified federal agents arrestig a Black Lives Matter protester on Twitter and called the move ‘absolutely unacceptable’
‘Over the past week, President Trump has used our city as a staging ground to further his political agenda, igniting his base to cause further divisiveness,’ Wheeler said.
‘Mr. President, federal agencies should never be used as your own personal army.’
‘This is part of the core media strategy out of Trump’s White House: to use federal troops to bolster his sagging polling data,’ Wheeler said. ‘And it is an absolute abuse of federal law enforcement officials.’
But acing DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, who visited Portland on Thursday, defended his officers actions. He claimed that his officers had been assaulted with frozen water bottles ‘from violent criminals.’
‘Let’s get this right. “Protestors” imply they were peacefully exercising their 1st amendment rights,’ wrote Wolf.
‘Instead, DHS officers were assaulted with lasers and frozen water bottles from violent criminals attempting to tear down federal property. 2 officers were injured. Facts matter.’
Acting Secretary Chad Wolf of the US Department of Homeland Security defended his decision to deploy federal agents to Portland and claimed his officers had been subject to assaults by ‘violent criminals’
In a 1,700-word statement, Wolf also said troops were sent in to ‘restore order’ from ‘lawless anarchists’ who’ve become ’emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day.’
‘The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days. Each night the violent anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it,’ he said.
His rhetoric matches that of President Trump, who has unequivocally sided with law enforcement in recent months and has referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as ‘thugs.’
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also blasted the Trump administration for allowing federal agents to canvas the city without proper identification.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: ‘thought we’d already covered this after the attacks in Lafayette Square: the US government should not be using unidentified federal officers as a secret police force to terrorize US citizens & violate their constitutional rights’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also condemned the presence of federal agents in Portland by saying ‘Trump & his stormtroopers must be stopped’
Pelosi:’This is disgraceful behavior we would expect from a banana republic — not the government of the United States’
‘I thought we’d already covered this after the attacks in Lafayette Square: the US government should not be using unidentified federal officers as a secret police force to terrorize US citizens & violate their constitutional rights. This is outrageous,’ wrote Warren.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused federal agents of being ‘Trump’s secret police.’
‘Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic,’ wrote Pelosi.
‘@DHSgov ’s actions in Portland undermine its mission. Trump & his stormtroopers must be stopped.
‘First Amendment speech should never be met with one-sided violence from federal agents acting as Trump’s secret police, especially when unidentified. This is disgraceful behavior we would expect from a banana republic — not the government of the United States.’
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown appeared to summarize her cohorts opinions by suggesting both President Trump and Secretary Wolf are prioritizing politics over public safety.
‘This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government,’ she wrote on Twitter.
‘I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown furthered the attacks against DHS and the Trump administration by suggesting their motivations behind deploying federal agents was political, not to enforce public safety
Gov. Brown suggests President Trump was hypocritical in his criticisms of Portland because of his widely condemned St. John church photo-op that caused authorities to use tear gas on peaceful protesters in Washington D.C.
Black Lives Matter protesters, as well as Oregon officials, have made it clear that federal agents are not welcome in Portland and blame them for the escalated tensions
On Friday, Portland protesters began placing large chain link fence pieces against doorways of the federal justice center to block agents inside the building
Several black residents used a bullhorn to share their experiences of racism during a portion of the Black Lives Matter protest on Friday
One person who joined tense protests in Portland on Friday night held a sign reading,’ Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’
Brown even suggested Trump was hypocritical and pointed out his notorious St. John church photo-op where peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square were cleared out with tear gas and alleged less-lethal munitions.
Pettibone said he plans to speak with the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU, but the latter has already taken legal action against the agency.
On Friday, ACLU announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the DHS over the ‘flat-out unconstitutional’ arrests.
‘Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping — what is happening now in Portland should concern everyone in the US. These actions are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered,’ the organization wrote.
Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, added: ‘This is a fight to save our democracy.’
The American Civil Liberties Union revealed that it will sue the US Department of Homeland Security over actions and arrests they deem ‘flat-out unconstitutional’
ACLU also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the Portland Police, who they’ve accused of unfairly targeting journalists and legal observers amid ongoing protests.
If won, federal agents would be held to far more restrictions than they do now. Authorities would be barred from arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force against journalists or legal observers unless it’s ‘reasonably known’ the individual committed a crime, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
One of the largest problems currently facing law enforcement in Portland in a lack of uniform restrictions and rules from local police to federal agents.
Portland Police Bureau officers and local authorities have been barred from using crowd control munitions against non-violent protesters – but not federal agents.
Federal agents have also repeatedly used tear gas, which has been temporarily banned from the Portland Police Bureau by federal court order unless they declare a riot.
Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told Associated Press that federal agents don’t coordinate with his agency and that ‘it does complicate things for us.’
Orion Crabb holds his head back as a medic works to remove tear gas from his eyes during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon
One of the largest problems facing law enforcement in Portland is the different policing restrictions placed on local police and federal agents, who are allowed to use tear gas and less-lethal munitions against protesters
Graffiti made by Black Lives Matter protesters on the Portland courthouse building reads ‘Send home Trump’s piglets’ and ‘We Won’t Forget La Bella,’ in reference to the 29-year-old peaceful protester who was shot by federal agents with a ‘rubber bullet’ and suffered skull fractures
A smoke grenade burns in front of federal law enforcement officers, deployed under the Trump administration’s new executive order to protect federal monuments and buildings
Protestors erect fencing in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse entrance doors to block federal agents inside, but authorities eventually exited through the next door building and clashed with protesters
On Friday, authorities reportedly used tear gas, pepper balls, impact munitions and stun grenades at Black Lives Matter protesters
Last night, federal agents continued to patrol with little restriction and on at least two occasions used tear gas against Black Lives Matter protesters.
Hundreds of protesters gathered for a candlelight vigil, but some broke away to visit two nearby parks recently closed by the city.
They dismantled a chain link fence that surrounded the parks and moved them into the street, Oregon Live reports.
Lownsdale Park, near the justice center, became home to Portland’s first autonomous zone this week.
CLAT, or Chinook Land Autonomous Zone, first sprang up on Tuesday when protesters used flashing traffic lights, kitchen appliances, codes and other items to create a barricade.
It is the same park where ‘Occupy Portland’ protesters set up camp in 2011 during the nationwide Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
Autonomous zones began springing up across the United States after the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
The first police-free zone appeared in Seattle, Washington with the emergence of ‘CHOP’, or the Capitol Hill Organized Protest.
CHOP was meant to embrace community policing, but quickly descended into dangerous incidents and volatile nights that say a 16-year-old boy shot dead and a 14-year-old passenger wounded.
Footage from the scene shows a number of protesters standing behind a barricade made of yellow caution tape, traffic cones and what appears to be a grill.
Protesters in Portland have set up their own version of Seattle’s CHOP this week with CLAT – Chinook Land Autonomous Territory – and camped out in a park near the federal courthouse
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, clashed with federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security this week as agents deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal munitions at residents. Pictured: a fountain in Portland damaged during Black Lives Matter protests on Thursday
Photo shared by the Portland Police Bureau show graffiti inside a public restroom that reads ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘ACAB’ and ‘No Lives Matter Until Black Lives Do’
Graffiti in CLAT read ‘All Cops are B******,’ ‘ Black Trans Lives Matter’ and ‘f*** 12 our street.’
An account from PNW Youth Liberation Front, an anti-fascist and anti-capitalist group, shared posts that urged Portland residents to support the CLAT encampment downtown on Wednesday.
The post said that support is needed to ‘defend riot ribs and the autonomous territory…solid numbers are needed.’
They added that people inside CLAT were in need of barricades, shields, tents, sleeping bags and other materials to stay camped out in the zone.
But that did little to stop protesters on Thursday night who set an American flag ablaze on a concrete stump where the infamous 120-year Elk Statue was damaged in early July.
Protesters in Oregon burned an American flag this week while setting up the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on Tuesday
Footage taken at the scene shows a number of people gathered around the fire as one person can be heard yelling ‘Burn, let it burn!’
And last week, a protesters were caught in a botched attempt to damage a federal building.
Authorities on Friday did not intervene at first, but around 10pm announced over loud speaker that they were going to retrieve the fence pieces. Some officer emerged from the Justice Center, but soon retreated.
Later, dozens of federal officers reportedly streamed out of the federal building next door, while protesters stood several feet away near an intersection.
Within minutes, federal agents deployed impact munitions, stun grenades and tear gas.
According to reports with Oregon Live, the protesters had not done any anything to prompt the aggressive response.
Portland Police confirmed that federal agents used a type of tear gas during the incident.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty speaks at a candlelight vigil during equality protests in Portland, Oregon, on Friday as several of her colleagues blast President Trump and the DHS
Last night, federal agents continued to patrol with little restriction and on at least two occasions used tear gas against Black Lives Matter protesters
Two Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, sit in the middle of an intersection with their hands raised in the air as a sign of solidarity with the movement
Protesters push a chain-link fence against an entrance to the Multnomah County Justice Center in an attempt to prevent police from leaving the building during a protest against racial inequality
A resident covered up a Police parking sign with ‘Black Trans Lives Matter,’ the phrase ‘Pig’ and small drawing of the animal
By 11.30pm, the crowd of protesters had grown to at least 500 people and chants of ‘No justice, No peace,’ echoed through the late night streets.
During the protest, Black residents used a bullhorn to speak about their experiences with racism, and others used dismantled fencing to block the plywood-covered doors of the federal courthouse.
Some protesters continued to reinforce their blockade, but were sent back around midnight when agents threw a smoking device through a hole they cut in the plywood.
A stun grenade had also been deployed around 1am, but it’s unclear what police agency set it off.
Although the groups of protesters would remain out in the streets into the wee hours of the morning, authorities attempted to clear out the area using force.
Rows authorities in riot gear, followed by Portland police vehicles, arrived to Madison Street to force people out of the area. Some federal agents appeared in camouflage, as well.
They opened fire with pepper balls, used stun grenades and used gas to move protesters north.
Other protesters were pushed left, where at least one group of federal agents were reportedly seen near the group with Portland police,
A protestor is seen inside the Portland autonomous zone perimeter fencing with a makeshift shield reading ‘[Black Lives Matter] and a gas mask
A woman participating in protests runs away from Portland police and federal agents who have deployed tear gas at demonstrators
Pictured: Police respond to protestors erecting fencing around the Multnomah County Justice Center on Friday amid reports that they were pushing chain link fences against entrance doors
The Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse is covered in graffiti that reads ‘White silence is violence’ and ‘property damage [does not] equal violence’