US Attorney for the District of Oregon, Billy J. Williams, called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General on Friday to launch a probe into reports of unmarked, camouflaged federal agents arresting protesters in Portland.
Federal agents from different elements of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service, not wearing name tags, are seen in video footage picking up and detaining demonstrators in unmarked vehicles.
“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,” US attorney Williams said in a statement on Friday. “As US Attorney, I will continue to work in concert with local and federal law enforcement and city and community leaders to bring about an end to this violence.”
On Friday, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed in a press release that personnel from the agency had detained protesters in Portland, Oregon, and had taken them for questioning to an unknown location that they deemed safe from what they characterized as violent mobs.
“The CBP agents identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter. The names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law enforcement personnel who serve and protect our country,” the release stated.
Williams said that federal personnel have been fulfilling their mission of protecting federal buildings in the city, as required, but in “limited instances”, their “conduct has been questioned”. He noted that the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation “into the use of less lethal ammunition directed at a protester last week”.
On Friday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on President Donald Trump to withdraw federal law enforcement troops deployed by the White House to the city and order them to remain in their “own buildings”. The mayor observed that sending troops to the city is a “strategy” by the Trump administration to “bolster his sagging polling data”.
“Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city,” Wheeler said during a news conference on Friday. “This is part of the core media strategy out of Trump's White House: to use federal troops to bolster his sagging polling data. And it is an absolute abuse of federal law enforcement officials”.
Last week, Trump ordered federal law enforcement forces be deployed to some US cities, including Portland, justifying the move by claiming that demonstrations were taking over, and declaring that “it was out of control. The locals couldn’t handle it”. The move has been met with criticism by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who has accused the president of using the power of the federal government to distract Americans from the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
Portland has been dealing with ongoing anti-police-brutality and anti-racism protests and riots since the 25 May death of African American George Floyd while in the custody of white police officers in Minneapolis.