(Headline USA) The cities of Oaklan, Calif., and Portland, Oregon have sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, alleging that the agencies are overstepping constitutional limits in their use of federal law enforcement officers to tamp down on protests.
The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, cites the deployment of U.S. agents this summer to quell protests in Portland and alleges the U.S. Marshals Service unlawfully deputized dozens of local Portland police officers as federal agents despite objections from city officials.
Last month, Portland agreed to have about five dozen of its police officers deputized as federal agents by the Marshals Service in advance of a rally planned in the city by the right-wing group Proud Boys.
The city anticipated potential clashes between left- and right-wing protesters. Troopers from the Oregon State Police and a local sheriff’s department were also deputized.
City leaders have since said that they believed the police officers would only be federally deputized for that weekend and sought to cancel the agreement after the rally was over.
But the U.S. Attorney for Oregon and the Marshals Service have refused to cancel the deputization, which officially expires on Dec. 31.
The lawsuit also alleges that the U.S. government has illegally erected a fence around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, which is federal property, against the city’s wishes. The fence blocks a major bike thoroughfare that is city property, according to Portland officials.
The federal deputations have meant protesters arrested by local police could face federal charges, which generally carry stiffer penalties.
The move came as officials in Portland and other blue-run sanctuary cities for radical anarchists refused to dispatch local law-enforcement to handle the destructive race riots.
But the lawsuit claimed that use of federal agents in these ways is a major shift in policy and threatens the independence of local law enforcement.
The complaint cited the anti-commandeering doctrine of the Tenth Amendment, which says that the federal government cannot require states or state officials to adopt or enforce federal law.
The Justice Department declined to comment and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request Thursday.
In the past, acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf has been a vocal defender of the administration’s response to the civil unrest in Portland
The Trump administration says the work of the federal agents is limited to federal property but “the activities in cities such as Portland instead reveal a distinct and meaningful policy shift to use federal enforcement to unilaterally step in and replace local law enforcement departments that do not subscribe to the President’s view of domestic ‘law and order.’”
The allegations of constitutional overreach focused on the federal government’s actions in Portland, but Oakland joined the lawsuit because of concerns that the Trump administration might send U.S. agents to Oakland or deputize police officers there as well, court papers show.
The far-left city, sandwiched in between San Francisco and Berkeley but with a less affluent population, has a long history of participating in violent riots.
Radical agitators have already announced their plans for sustained social unrest in the event that the outcome of the Nov. 3 election is anything but a decisive victory for Democrat Joe Biden.
U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams said in late September that more than 80 people had been charged with federal crimes related to the protests.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press