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Trump has been accused of "blatant abuse of power" after unmarked federal agents seized protesters in Portland. Protests are still ongoing after the killing of George Floyd.
Militarized federal agents wearing camouflaged outfits took to the streets of Portland, Oregon on Friday in unmarked vans, grabbing and detaining protesters while unleashing tear gas in what state Governor Kate Brown described as "blatant abuse of power."
The Democratic governor of Oregon said President Donald Trump was seeking confrontation as a way of winning political points while also trying to distract citizens from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Oregon has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases recently, while a number of other states across the US have also reported significant rises in infections.
Brown's spokesman, Charles Boyle, said that detaining people in this manner is "extraordinarily concerning and a violation of their civil liberties and constitutional rights."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) echoed the sentiments of Brown's office. "Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping," said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU. "The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered."
Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the chorus of disapproval, demanding Trump recall the federal agents he deployed.
Wheeler called on the president to "keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city," he told reporters at a press briefing.
Federal agents have charged at least 13 people with crimes in connection with the civil unrest so far, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on Thursday.
One video showed two people in helmets and green camouflage with "police" patches seizing a person on the sidewalk, and then putting handcuffs on them before forcing them into an unmarked vehicle.
The US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that its official agents had information suggesting the person in the footage was suspected of assaulting officers or causing serious damage to federal property.
"Once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob moved towards their location. For everyone's safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location," the agency said.
However, in the video, there is no indication of a mob.
On Thursday night, federal officers unleashed tear gas and fired non-lethal rounds into a gathering of protesters.
Portland's protests began in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, drawing thousands of people to the streets to denounce police violence and racial injustice.
Though many of the protests have since waned, hundreds have endured, while clashes have occurred with the police most nights. Citizens have set off fireworks, lit fires and attempted to create an autonomous zone.
jsi/aw (AP, Reuters)