POLITICS

Democratic Mayors Urge Congress To Stop Federal Agents' Use Of Force During Protests

The mayors, including Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler, say the Trump administration is violating constitutional rights by dispatching the squads.

Six Democratic mayors from across the country urged Congress to stop federal agents from interfering with protests in cities and called on the lawmakers to investigate the Trump administration’s deployment of them.

In a letter Monday to congressional Democratic and Republican leaders, the mayors of Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Washington and Portland, Oregon, called the recent deployment of armed federal agents at protests “unprecedented” and in violation of constitutional rights.

The letter called for the immediate reversal of President Donald Trump’s use of a “Rapid Deployment Unit” in Portland and asked that Congress investigate Trump’s unilateral decision to use federal force.

It was sent in response to a days-long clash in Portland, where the military-style squads have used violent and controversial tactics to disperse an ongoing demonstration in protest of the police killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people in the U.S.

Videos surfaced over the week showing federal agents dressed in camouflage fatigues in unmarked cars snatching protesters from the streets, sparking outrage and calls for justice nationwide. Portland police also said that federal forces were using tear gas against the protesters.

“These forces are conducting crowd control on city streets and detaining individuals,” the mayors said. “Their threats and actions have ... escalated events, and increased the risk of violence against both civilians and local law enforcement officers.”

The mayors continued: “The unilateral deployment of these forces into American cities is unprecedented and violates fundamental constitutional protects and tenets of federalism.”

In his own statement, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler described the use of federal force as an attack on “progressive cities with a classic ‘divide and conquer’ tactic.”

“We must not fall prey to this,” Wheeler tweeted Monday. “Nationwide, we must stand together for peace and for reform against those who would oppose it.” 

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit Saturday that claimed that the action taken by federal officers violated several constitutional rights of Portland residents.

Rosenblum said the federal agents’ tactics did not serve “any legitimate federal law enforcement purpose. The attorney general also argued that the federal agents violated “the rights of all people detained without a warrant or basis for arrest, and violate the state’s sovereign interests in enforcing laws and protecting people within its border from kidnap and false arrest.” 

Trump defended the federal interference in Portland on Sunday, saying in a tweet that the administration was “trying to help Portland, not hurt it.”

“Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators,” Trump said. “They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”

The letter sent Monday said that the Trump administration has used federal force despite state and local officials’ objections to having federal agents intervene.

“None of these agents are trained in modern urban community policing, such as de-escalation,” the letter said. “They are operating without coordination with local law enforcement, and their actions have escalated events, leading to more violence and unrest.”

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