(Headline USA) The Trump administration is facing growing resistance from radical lefitsts—in the courts and on the streets—to sending federal agents to Portland, Oregon, where protests have spiraled into violence, and vowing to do the same in other Democratic-led cities.
Initially reluctant to provide tactical support during anarchist demonstrations in Seattle, New York and others, some of which lasted weeks, Trump changed his tune with the violence in Oregon, refusing to allow the rioters to lay the city to ruin. He likewise determined to send 150 troops into Chicago to maintain order as crime skyrocketed.
The Trump administration also has sent more than 100 federal officers to Kansas City to help quell a rise in violence after the shooting death of a young boy there.
But leftists claim that the presence of federal agents on the streets of progressive Portland—and particularly allegations they have whisked people away in unmarked cars without probable cause—has energized two months of nightly protests that had begun to devolve into smaller, chaotic crowds.
Trump’s administration also faces multiple lawsuits questioning its authority to use broad policing powers in cities.
One filed Tuesday says federal agents are violating protesters’ 10th Amendment rights by engaging in police activities designated to local and state governments. The legal action was filed by the Portland-based Western States Center, which helps organize and promote the rights of communities of color and low-income people.
Oregon’s attorney general sued last week, asking a judge to block federal agents’ actions. The state argued that masked agents have arrested people on the street, far from the U.S. courthouse that’s become a target of vandalism, with no probable cause.
“It is time for the Trump troops to go home and focus their attention on other activities,” Democratic Gov. Kate Brown said on MSNBC.
Federal authorities, however, said state and local officials had been unwilling to work with them to stop the vandalism and violence against federal officers and the U.S. courthouse in Portland.
“We need to find a peaceful outcome,” acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at a news conference Tuesday in Washington. “At the end of the day, we have to protect the federal property and the law enforcement officers.”
The use of federal agents against the will of local officials also has set up the potential for a constitutional crisis, legal experts say.
Federal forces were deployed to Portland in early July, and tensions have grown since: A protester was hospitalized this month with critical injuries after a U.S. Marshals Service officer struck him in the head with a round of less-lethal ammunition.
Anger flared again over the weekend after video surfaced of a federal agent hitting a U.S. Navy veteran repeatedly with a baton while another agent sprays him in the face with pepper spray.
Crowds had recently numbered fewer than 100 people but swelled to more than 1,000 over the weekend, again attracting a broader base in a city that’s increasingly unified and outraged.
Among the protesters was Mardy Widman, who watched demonstrations unfold in her hometown for weeks but stayed away because, at 79, she feared getting the coronavirus.
When Trump sent in federal officers, that changed: A masked Widman took to the street Monday with other Portland residents.
“It’s like a dictatorship,” Widman, a grandmother of five, said, holding a sign that read: “Grammy says: Please feds, leave Portland.”
“I mean, that he can pick on our city mostly because of the way we vote and make an example of it for his base is very frightening,” she said.
Federal agents again used force to scatter protesters early Tuesday and deployed tear gas and rubber bullets as some in the crowd tried to pull plywood off the shuttered entryway of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
Portland police said some protesters lit fires in the street and tried several times to set them at the courthouse doors.
Wolf defended the federal response, saying the Department of Homeland Security has clear authority to protect government property and detain people suspected of threatening personnel or damaging such property.
Wolf said agents have been assaulted with lasers, bats, fireworks, bottles and other weapons and “yet the city of Portland takes little to no action.”
While he said federal agencies have made 43 arrests since July 4, he disputed that they were done by unidentified agents, noting that they have the word “police” on their uniforms.
“These police officers are not storm troopers, they are not Gestapo. That description is offensive,” Wolf said.