Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation on Monday unveiled a bill to curb federal use of force against protesters in Portland and other U.S. cities and require federal officers to clearly identify themselves.
The effort, led by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, comes as federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump continue to escalate tensions during nightly demonstrations outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown.
Clad in camouflage and other military gear, federal officers in the last week shot one demonstrator in the head with a crowd-control munition and were accused of sweeping others off the streets into unmarked vehicles.
They also have repeatedly fired tear gas and pepper balls into large crowds decrying police violence and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, including one on Saturday night that counted a Multnomah County commissioner among its participants.
“What we have seen in the last 10 days in Portland has been horrific and unconscionable,” Merkley said in a statement. “These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not a democratic republic. This gross violation of Americans’ civil rights must end immediately.”
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The bill, called the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, would prohibit federal officers from conducting crowd control activities — such as firing munitions and making arrests — outside of federal property and the immediate vicinity, unless a mayor or governor asked for direct assistance.
It would also force federal officers to display their name and law enforcement agency on their uniforms, prevent them from using unmarked vehicles in making arrests and require federal law enforcement agencies to publicly disclose any deployment within 24 hours.
Any arrest made in violation of those provisions would be deemed unlawful, according to a copy of the legislation.
Joining Merkley on the bill are Sen. Ron Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, all Democrats. More than a dozen Congress members from other states also signed on as cosponsors.
“We must hold law enforcement accountable for violating the constitutional rights of Oregonians and for escalating tensions in our community,” Bonamici said in a statement. “We must pass this legislation to block Trump from sending unidentified officers to operate with impunity in Portland and other cities across the country.”
Under an executive order, Trump earlier this month sent officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s tactical team known as BORTAC, the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to support Federal Protective Service officers in policing federal property in downtown Portland.
Some protesters have thrown bottles, shot fireworks and pointed lasers at officers while others have vandalized the federal courthouse and set fires outside of it. At least a dozen people are now facing federal allegations stemming from the late-night and early morning confrontations.
Still, the aggressive tactics by federal officers have drawn national headlines, generated a lawsuit by the Oregon attorney general and prompted city, state and federal elected leaders to call on the officers to leave Portland.
But the president has no plans to pull the forces out of the city and is looking to send federal officers to other cities that have been hotbeds of protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“They really have done a fantastic job in a short period of time,” Trump said Monday of the federal officers in Portland, adding a few jabs at the city’s demonstrators. “These are anarchists. These are not protesters. These are people that hate our country.”
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