House Democrats are furious over the Trump Administration’s use of Homeland Security and Border Patrol forces in Portland, Oregon. Portland, which has seen nightly protests since the death of George Floyd, has been a point of contention for Trump. The President continues insisting that “law and order” are under threat by the protests.
Local officials in Portland, however, disagree. Mayor Ted Wheeler has publicly stated that the federal authorities are “not wanted” in Portland. Many in the city have noted that the protests are mostly peaceful. However, heavy-handed policing tactics by federal authorities have resulted in escalated tensions.
The protesters in Portland are calling for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes. In the months since Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement has organized countless protests in cities around the world.
Donald Trump, while conciliatory towards Floyd’s family, has taken an aggressive stance against the protesters. He has trumpeted a “law and order” stance that is proving unpopular in national polls. However, the rhetoric fires up the president’s core supporters, many of whom buy into a worldview of “far-left anarchists” trying to tear down the American way of life.
Protesters in Portland have described the federal authorities of functioning as Trump’s own secret police. Dressed in drab fatigues and driving unmarked vans, these forces have been detaining protesters with no reason given. Many legal scholars contend that this is unconstitutional: you can’t arrest someone for exercising their first amendment right to protest.
What’s more, people arrested by federal authorities are to be told the reason for their arrest, and the name of the arresting agency. This has not happened in numerous cases. As such, outcry against the federal government’s use of these agents has been swift. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Trump Administration over these breaches of civil liberties.
House Democrats, including Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, are demanding an investigation. “This is a matter of utmost urgency,” Nadler wrote, noting that he and other top lawmakers were “alarmed” by the reports from Portland. Democrats currently control the majority in the US House of Representatives.
This makes it unlikely that Republicans will be able to block formal investigations from within the federal government. However, it remains to be seen how aggressively Senate Republicans will defend the president’s use of secret police in Portland.