ACLU sues over federal action in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit alleging agents sent by President Donald Trump to protect a federal courthouse targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters used excessive force and illegal detentions to rob protesters of their freedom of speech and assembly.

The lawsuit also alleges that the acting director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, did not have the authority to send more than 100 agents to Portland because he was improperly appointed.

The federal agents exceeded the limits of their authority, making illegal arrests and using tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and other tactics to squelch the protests, the lawsuit alleges.

“Our clients are individuals and organizations that gathered peacefully in downtown Portland to support Black Lives Matter after the killing of George Floyd and so many others at the hands of the police,” said Jeremy Sacks, an attorney working with the ACLU. “But they were met by violence from the federal police forces intent on squelching the protesters message and their Constitutional rights — all in aid of the president’s political agenda.”

DHS did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The lawsuit names that agency, as well as Wolf and Trump.

Plaintiffs include three military veterans, a college professor, several Black Lives Matter activists and a man who alleges he was snatched off a street blocks from the federal courthouse by unidentified agents for no reason.

Almost all the plaintiffs allege physical injuries from getting hit by metal tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, pepper spray and other chemical irritants. Some were treated at hospitals, where they got multiple stitches and received CAT scans to check for more serious internal injuries, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit was the third filed by ACLU in Portland since nightly protests began after the May 25 death of George Floyd, the Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him by the neck.

Portland has seen more than 90 days of nightly unrest following Floyd’s death, including two weeks in July when thousands of protesters clashed with U.S. agents sent to protect the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

Local police have arrested hundreds of people over the three months and federal agents arrested at least 94 people at the height of the demonstrations in July.


Subscribe to the Legal News!

Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!

One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available