State and Local Representatives push for Federal Agents departure
After two and a half months of the protests occurring, state and local representatives of Portland have been negotiating with the US government for the removal of federal officers. Oregon’s Attorney General Ellen Rosebaum filed a lawsuit against federal agents for seizing and detaining protestors without probable cause. Governor Kate Brown has received criticism over how she has ignored the violent protests within her State. The Senate Republican Office of Oregon wrote a letter stating that she has, “been confronted with clear evidence of violent anarchists engaging in unconstitutional activities that result in significant harm to law enforcement and jeopardize the safety of Oregonians.” President Donald Trump has stated in a press conference that the local and state leadership need to do their job and clean up their city. He stated in a tweet regarding Governor Brown and the riots, “If she can’t do it, the Federal Government will do it for her. We will not be leaving until there is safety.”
Riots last for another Week
A statement from Governor Brown’s office upheld that Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers and all Customs and Border Protection will leave Portland on July 30th, claiming that they brought violence to the communities. The rallies were peaceful for a few days and then a press release from DHS released on August 1st, stated that the protestors started a fire outside the courthouse. When Federal Protective Services (FPS) tried to extinguish the fire, some of the protestors reacted by throwing objects at them. A few days later more activists assaulted Police Officers and no federal law enforcement was involved. DHS released a statement that the, “Oregon State Police (OSP) responded to an approximately 20-person fight two blocks away from the courthouse on the other side of a nearby city park. Violence was directed at uniformed OSP officers during the incident.” At 1 AM the next day the protestors broke into the Portland Police Association building and started a fire inside, while the police officers attempted to disperse the crowd. The last declared riot was on August 6th, where the demonstrators vandalized and attempted to burn down another police station.
Testimonies from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ)
A Senate subcommittee was held on August 4th regarding free speech in light of the events that took place in Portland. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregan claimed that if the federal agents had any identifiers it was impossible to know and that the protestors were put in unmarked vehicles without giving any probable cause. The acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli has denied some of these accusations by saying that the identifiers were visible, although the officers names were not identified because they were being doxed. Director Cuccinelli also argued that, “The use of unmarked vehicles by law enforcement is common to avoid potential attacks by criminals on a nightly basis.”
When asked by Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, about the protesters who were assaulted by federal agents, Cuccinelli said that they were under review by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and it may take some time to review because they are looking at other cases in addition to Portland. The Inspector General stated that their review will “include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force.”
Some of the testimonies that were presented stated that it was a peaceful protest where federal officers came in and assaulted non-violent demonstrators. Senator Merkley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island used Chirs David as an example. David was an army veteran, who took part in the protests. When he went up to the federal authorities to question why protestors were arrested without probable cause, he was assaulted and tear gassed by federal officers. Cuccinelli addressed this issue by stating, “…I understand there to be a great deal of respect for law enforcement, nor I assume anyone on this committee expects them to be perfect, while at the same time holding them to the kind of higher standard… We have to continue to enforce the law while correcting whatever mistakes do arise without stopping the enforcement of the law.”
Senator Ted Cruz criticized the Democratic Party for referring to the Federal Agents as Gestapo and Stormtroopers. When Senator Cruz reiterated what was said Cuccinelli replied with, “…we ask them to put a gun on, and stand between us and evil every day, and these folks do it, and they do it dutifully and they do it professionally, and that includes in Portland…”
White supremacy was also discussed by several members of the committee because that was also considered domestic terrorism. Erin Nealy Cox, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, stated that before the activities took place in Portland most of the domestic terrorist cases were white supremacy involved. When asked what DHS was trying to investigate terrorist hate groups, Director Cuccinelli stated that some of the efforts were increasing track of analysis and communication with local and state authorities.
Statements Accuse Antifa and White Supremacy to be Present at Portland
Andrew Ngo, Professor Johnathan Turley, Nkenge Harmon and Kyle Shideler, were a part of the second panel during the testimony. Ngo, an editor of The Post Millennial, states that the Youth Liberation Front, a faction of Antifa was involved in the demonstrations. Professor Turley also confirmed that Rose City Antifa were in charge of the protests. Ngo states that these demonstrations in Portland have been ongoing since the 2016 Presidential election of Donald Trump. He established, “Local politicians have been nurturing and allowing this extremism to go on….”
According to Kyle Shideler who was a part of Center for Security Policy (CSP), Antifa has been “relying on support organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, The International Workers of the World, Refuse Fascism and the National Lawyers Guild….” Shiedler has also accused Antifa of creating allyships through memorandums of “understanding not to interfere with criminal activity in exchange for protection.”
Professor Turley, from Georgia University Law School testified on how groups like Antifa were a problem in listening to opposing views, especially in academic settings. Turley stated that he has known some law professors who have been attacked by Antifa members who would then require police protection. Antifa would use methods like no platforming and censor speakers at university with opposing views. Turley claimed, “In my written testimony I explore ways in which congress can enforce free speech through a mix of measures through federal enforcement to federal funding. It is by no means an easy task because Government enforcement itself can chill free speech.”
In addition to statements that Antifa was a part of the riots in Portland, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, a lawyer also offered her testimony. She stated that white supremacist groups showed up to the Black Lives rally to escalate the situation. Harmon alleged that the local police even assisted some of the white supremacists, sometimes armed, who appeared while the rally was occurring in front of the federal courthouse.
What rights do the Portland Demonstrators have?
There are some polarizing viewpoints of events that occurred between the Federal Agents and the demonstrators. The Senate Democrats state that the protesters constitutional rights were violated because they were not read their rights and the Federal agents did not identify themselves. The Federal departments denied their refusal to read rights and said that there were identifiers. However the officers refused to give their names because of doxing of some of the activists. Free speech has been a common theme throughout the debate on the Portland demonstrations. There has been accusations of censorships on both sides, of the far left shutting down opposing views and rioting in retaliation. For the police there have been allegations of using white supremacist’s of silencing Black Lives Matter or Antifa.
Antifa and Black Lives Matter do have rights but that can only go so far with the federal and state law, as well as the constitution. Christopher B. Dolan, a lawyer from San Francisco, claims that there is no statute of federal officers requiring to give their identification. The local police department in Portland are required to identify themselves unless it compromises their safety, impairs the performance or if their supervisor gives them permission to withhold information. Groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter do have the right to peaceably assemble, as is covered by the first amendment. However other groups are still covered by that right so others can have a free exchange of ideas. Freedom of speech also include individuals like Prof. Turley who speak out against the violence that has been committed by Antifa.