PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Federal agents in green camouflage uniforms have been taking into custody people in the streets of Portland, not close to federal property that they were sent to protect, in what the ACLU of Oregon on Friday said “should concern everyone in the United States.”
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping. The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said President Donald Trump, who deployed Department of Homeland Security officers to Portland, “is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa.”
“Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement late Thursday.
Federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far in Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday. Some have been detained by the federal courthouse, which has been the scene of protests. But others were grabbed blocks away.
One video showed two individuals in helmets and green camouflage with “police” patches grabbing a person on the sidewalk, handcuffing them and taking them into an unmarked vehicle.
“Who are you?” someone asks the pair, who do not respond. At least some of the federal officers deployed in Portland belong to the Department of Homeland Security.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said in a tweet.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Oregon chapter said in a statement: “We are now seeing escalating tactics with protesters being unlawfully detained by unknown Federal law enforcement entities.”
On Thursday night, federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters in Portland, hours after the the head of the Department of Homeland Security visited the city and called the demonstrators, who are protesting racism and police brutality, “violent anarchists.”
Video showed many protesters leaving the area near the federal courthouse late Thursday as smoke filled the air.
During a visit to Portland earlier Thursday, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said state and city authorities are to blame for not putting an end to the protests, angering local officials.