Portland’s Wall of Moms, Black Lives Matter and the Don’t Shoot protest groups filed a lawsuit Monday against the U.S. Justice and Homeland Security departments, arguing that federal officers are using excessive violence and violating protesters’ constitutional rights.
Military-style squads dispatched to the city by the Trump administration are trampling protesters’ right to free speech by overstepping their authority and using violence, the lawsuit alleges.
The 114 federal officers sent to Portland this month have made unlawful arrests without probable cause and used violence to “stamp out peaceful and constitutionally protected protests,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Rather than protect and defend Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, as they are bound to do by law and their Oaths of Office, Defendants have implemented an unlawful policy to quash Plaintiffs’ speech and end their protests,‘’ the suit says.
The moms have been “tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them,” the lawsuit continues. “They have been shot at over and over — with rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray, and a range of other projectiles fired at close range and with brutal effect. They have had flash-bang explosive devices detonated right in front of them.”
The court action argues that Chad Wolf, who heads Homeland Security, has no legal authority to order officers into Portland because he is an “acting secretary” not confirmed by the Senate. In fact, he hasn’t even been nominated to the role by President Donald Trump.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Protect Democracy Project, a three-year-old group founded by former officials in the White House counsel’s office and the Department of Justice.
The Wall of Moms, formed to protect other protesters from attack by the military-style federal cops, has captured the attention of a sympathetic public and media. Several videos have shown the clearly peaceful moms being viciously attacked by the squads.
“Wall of Moms is non-violent,” Bev Barnum, an organizer of the group, wrote on Facebook. “Portland is done being shot with rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bag rounds and beaten by federal officers and local law enforcement.”
She added: “Once you experience Trump’s tyranny for yourself, you will understand why we’re protecting the protesters. They have a right to demand necessary changes.”
The suit seeks a temporary restraining order that would restrict federal officers’ actions to protecting federal property. It would bar them from acts that would “intimidate and deter protesters,” including surveillance, the use of militarized force, and the excessive deployment of crowd-control measures such as tear gas and pepper spray.