US government sending up to 150 more agents to Portland: Reports

Federal agents face accusations of excessive force as they operate in Portland against the wishes of local authorities.

Tear-gas protest in Portland
Federal police in the city under the orders of President Donald Trump's administration launch tear gas after a demonstration in Portland, Oregon, the United States [John Rudoff/Anadolu]

The mayors of six United States cities appealed on Monday to Congress to make it illegal for the federal government to deploy militarised federal agents to cities that do not want them, even as the administration of President Donald Trump is considering sending more of them to Portland, Oregon.

“This administration’s egregious use of federal force on cities over the objections of local authorities should never happen,” the mayors of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque and Washington, DC wrote to leaders of the US House of Representatives and Senate.

The Trump administration is sending at least 100 additional federal officers to Portland, Oregon, the Washington Post reported on Monday, as confrontations between anti-racism protesters and federal authorities have intensified.

US agents repeatedly fired what appeared to be tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls at protesters outside the federal courthouse in downtown in Portland in the early hours of Monday.

Some protesters had climbed over the fence surrounding the courthouse, while others shot fireworks, banged on the fence and projected lights on the building.

Trump said Monday on Twitter that the federal properties in Portland “wouldn’t last a day” without the presence of the federal agents.

The United States Marshals Service (USMS) decided last week to send 100 deputy marshals to fortify authorities guarding the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, the Post said, citing an internal email.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering sending 50 additional Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel to the city, the Washington Post and the Associated Press news agency reported. 

The plan has not been finalised, and it is not clear whether the officers would be replacing the officers on the ground, the AP said.

The USMS, CBP and DHS were all not immediately available for comment to confirm the report. 

Portland has seen protests nightly since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25. Protesters want police reform, among other demands for change. 

The demonstrations have focused on a federal courthouse, where agents have deployed tear gas to force thousands of demonstrators from crowding around the building. 

Feds Attempt To Intervene After Weeks Of Violent Protests In Portland
The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticised by city and state elected officials [Nathan Howard/Getty Images/AFP]

The agents have also allegedly shot protesters with less-lethal rounds, gravely wounding one and whisking protesters away in unmarked vans.  

Protests have largely been peaceful, though some have escalated to violence. Demonstrators have projected lasers on agents, allegedly blinding some, and attempted take down a security fence that had been reinforced to keep demonstrators at a distance from the courthouse.

Mayoral demands

The Trump administration says the forces are needed in Portland to protect the courthouse and other federal buildings.

But the mayors said the officers have patrolled areas distant from the federal properties and arrested citizens without cause. 

The mayors said they support legislative efforts to require notice and consultation with and consent from local authorities before deployments; to require visible identification at all times on federal agents and vehicles unless they are on an undercover mission authorised by the local US Attorney; and to impose limitations on federal agents’ crowd control activities to protecting federal property.

Some protesters have accused Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler of hypocrisy because he has allowed Portland police to use tear gas and other riot-control weapons on protesters, including peaceful ones.

The government has faced at least four lawsuits demanding the agents be removed. Both local and state officials have also requested that the agents leave. 

The agents have allegedly used excessive force, attacking mothers, disabled veterans and journalists. 

A federal judge issued an order that agents could not arrest or use physical force against journalists and legal observers at protests in Portland on Friday.

Trump to send ‘surge’ of hundreds of federal agents to US cities

The city has had nightly protests for two months since the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest, but state and local officials said they are making the situation worse.

Protests have ebbed and flowed nationwide since May. The past week has seen an increase in intensity. Protesters set fire to an Oakland, California, courthouse; vehicles were set ablaze in Richmond, Virginia; and an armed protester was shot and killed in Austin, Texas.

Two people were shot and wounded in Aurora, Colorado after a car drove through a protest.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies