A coalition of progressive Portland groups called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the city police bureau the day after officers employed a controversial crowd control tactic to detain more than 100 people during a demonstration.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center, ACLU of Oregon and the state chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations on Saturday called the Portland Police Bureau’s use of kettling “aggressive and indiscriminate.”
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The groups say the agency uses the tactic exclusively on left-leaning groups and reiterated long-standing criticism that Portland police treat such demonstrators much more harshly than right-wing protesters.
“What is PPB’s response when our community demands safety and justice? They repeatedly engage in violent and unconstitutional tactics that morally compel the community to respond through protest, mutual aid, legal action and legislation,” the groups said in a statement.
They called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “ongoing civil rights abuses that local and federal law enforcement are committing in Portland.” They also demanded that state lawmakers support police reform bills backed by the 12-member Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus in the Oregon Legislature.
“Law enforcement traumatization of our community must be stopped,” they said.
Protesters gathered in the Pearl District on Friday for a direct action march with no specified target, though an online poster promoting the gathering was illustrated with the logo for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a red line through it.
Shortly after the march began, officers began corralling demonstrators and detaining those within the kettle boundaries.
The tactic has long been criticized. In January, two federal judges tossed a pair of civil suits challenging police use of kettling during protests in downtown Portland in the summer of 2017.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Allen said the bureau had “reasonable suspicion” that everyone inside the kettle perimeter had “committed at least one criminal violation.”
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