Portland mayor issues stark warning over Trump admins use of federal troops to quell protests

Local lawmakers and national Democratic leaders have called for the removal of the masked, militarised federal agents from the city, following their deployment ostensibly to protect federal buildings.

Those agents have been accused of driving unmarked cars and seizing people from the street in recent days in the city, which has seen nightly protests for racial justice since the police killing of George Floyd.

“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here,” mayor Ted Wheeler said on Sunday. “The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent,” he added.

Portland’s mayor has called the Trump administration’s use of federal agents to quell protests there “a direct threat to democracy” which could be replicated in other cities across the country.

He told CNN: “This could happen in your city and what we’re seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government, by a Trump administration that’s falling in the polls and this is a direct threat to our democracy.”

His comments come after Donald trump defended the deployment, claiming he was “trying to help Portland, not hurt it.”

“Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators,” Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday.

“They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”

The deployment has been roundly condemned by Democrats as an abuse of power.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the Republican president of deploying “stormtroopers.”

“Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic,” she said.

The agents are from the US Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. Video and witness testimony has emerged in recent days showing them detaining people without cause far from the federal buildings they are mandated to protect.

Police declared a riot in the city on Saturday night as clashes continued, when a Portland Police Association building was set on fire briefly.

Local lawmakers have called for the removal of the federal agents from the city in a letter condemning the Trump administration’s actions.

“The message crafted by the Trump administration to justify this escalation of force and intimidation in Portland borders on propaganda, apparently to serve the president’s perceived political interests. This is unacceptable under our Constitution,” said a letter signed by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, together with House Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.

The letter, which was addressed to acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf, who deployed the agents, and US attorney general William Barr, accuses the federal agents of operating without identifying insignia in an apparent effort to evade accountability, and of “snatching people off the street with no apparent reason.”

“These actions are out of control … They are more reflective of tactics of a government led by a dictator, not from the government of our constitutional democratic republic,” the officials wrote.

Acting DHS secretary Wolf justified the deployment of the federal agents with a press release that detailed a litany of alleged crimes carried out by “violent anarchists”. Many of the incidents listed are graffiti of federal property or removing fences.

“The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city,” said the release by Mr Wolf.

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

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