Portland Protesters Sue Trump Administration Over Violent Federal Response to Demonstrations

By Shani Saxon Jul 28, 2020

Portland protesters on Monday (July 27) filed a nine-count lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and several other federal agencies, NPR reports. The protesters, including members of Wall of Moms and Don’t Shoot Portland, accuse the Trump administration of implementing “a violent and intimidating federal response to nightly demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality,” according to NPR.

The Portland organizations and individuals are accusing federal agencies of violating their “constitutionally protected freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable seizures, and right to due process, by deploying federal agents to unlawfully ‘quash Plaintiffs’ speech and end their protests,’” NPR reports. The complaint also alleges Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf is in his current role illegally because he was never confirmed by the Senate. 

DHS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) so far haven’t responded to NPR’s request for comment on the lawsuit. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson told the news outlet that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

As NPR points out, protesters have been demonstrating in downtown Portland every day since George Floyd died at the hands of police on May 25. The Trump administration began deploying agents to the Democrat-run city in early July. 

On the heels of the lawsuit, mayors of six U.S. mayors on Monday wrote a letter to Congress asking members to pass legislation that would prevent the Trump administration from deploying federal officers to their cities without their consent, according to NPR

Reports NPR:

The mayors of Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Albuquerque, N.M., Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Mo., signed on to the letter that criticized the administration for sending "unidentified federal agents to operate with impunity" in cities where demonstrations against police brutality and racism continue.

"Over the last several weeks, Americans have responded to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others by protesting the structural racism embedded in our country. We are encouraged that so many of our residents are exercising their First Amendment rights to stand up against these injustices. At the same time, we are outraged that the administration has responded to these First Amendment-protected gatherings by authorizing the deployment of riot-gear clad forces to Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle and other communities across the country without the consent of local authorities," the group wrote. "This administration’s egregious use of federal force on cities over the objections of local authorities should never happen." 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler referred to the presence of federal officers in his city as an "unconstitutional occupation."