- Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said the Trump administration’s deployment of federal troops to Portland risks a state of martial law during a presidential election.
- Federal agents in the city have worn military-style uniforms, taken protesters into unmarked cars, arrested people without explanation, and used tear gas and impact munitions to shoot protesters.
- Wyden and other Democrats in the state have urged that the agents are immediately recalled, but Trump has promised a “surge” of such agents in other cities as they are doing a “fantastic” job
- Mayors of other US cities said the agents would not be welcome, while experts warn that the agents could result in voter suppression and that Trump is “performing fascism.”
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An Oregon senator said the US is facing the threat of martial law while approaching November’s presidential election. He slammed US President Donald Trump’s deployment of federal agents in Portland and other cities.
Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told The Guardian that “Unless America draws a line in the sand right now, I think we could be staring down the barrel of martial law in the middle of a presidential election.”
And he warned that such a situation would mean “trashing the constitution and trashing people’s individual rights.”
Martial law is when the military takes control of law enforcement and civil rights are suspended.
Trump sent federal agents to Portland earlier in July, nominally to protect federal property. Protests in the city continued after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose death sparked demonstrations around the country after he died when a Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
The protests, now running for more than 50 days in a row, have seen some clashes with law enforcement and with vandalism, have largely been peaceful.
The federal officers, who have worn military-style uniforms with no insignia, have snatched protesters into unmarked cars, arrested people without explanation, and shot protesters at close range with impact munitions, Insider previously reported.
The Trump administration calls the deployment of the federal agents “Operation Diligent Valor.”
On Wednesday, Trump announced that he plans to deploy a “surge” of agents from the Department of Homeland Security to other cities, including Chicago and Albuquerque, and New Mexico, as agents had done a “fantastic” job in Portland.
Wyden told The Guardian: “I wish the president would fight the coronavirus half as hard as he attacks my home town.”
“I think he’s setting up an us-against-them kind of strategy. He’s trying to create his narrative that my constituents, who are peaceful protesters, are basically anarchists, sympathizers of anarchists and, as he does so often, just fabricate it.”
“Trump knows that his [coronavirus] strategy has been an unmitigated disaster. The coronavirus is spiking in various places and he’s trying to play to right-wing media and play to his base and see if he can kind of create a narrative that gives him some traction.”
Wyden’s comments to The Guardian come after he criticised the agents in a statement on Thursday, alongside Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
“The violent tactics deployed by Donald Trump and his paramilitary forces against peaceful protesters are those of a fascist regime, not a democratic nation,” they wrote.
And Wyden wrote in NBC News earlier this week that the Trump administration has “unleashed these agents like an occupying army – complete with fatigues, military-style equipment and tactics that are utterly unacceptable in an American city.”
Oregon’s Democratic lawmakers wrote to Attorney General William Barr on July 17, calling for the agents’ immediate removal, saying that “neither the public, nor local leaders, nor federal representatives for the people of Oregon know who these agents are.”
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is now investigating.
Constitutional experts have expressed alarm at the action.
Barry Friedman, a law professor and faculty director of New York University’s Policing Project, previously told Business Insider: “It’s alarming because it is placing what are effectively federal troops in a municipal-policing capacity in violation of the constitutional laws of the United States.”
The mayors of New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit said the agents were not welcome in their cities.
Mothers in Portland have formed a “wall of mums” to protect protesters from law enforcement. Some were tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets.
And veterans have formed a “wall of veterans.”
One veteran approached the agents to ask how they felt their actions matched the constitution, but video showed him being beaten, pepper-sprayed, and he was left with a broken hand.