Stop Authoritarian Police Practices on America's Streets

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On Thursday, July 16, the Trump administration deployed federal law enforcement to Portland, Oregon on the pretense of protecting federal property that had been vandalized during recent protests, over the objections of the mayor, governor and federal representatives. These officers, wearing camouflage military style uniforms with generic “police” markings, have used tactics such as taking protestors without probable cause, excessive use of tear gas and non-lethal munitions and advancing beyond federal property to patrol the streets of Portland. While federal law enforcement officers do not typically wear name badges, the effect of vague agency identification and camouflage uniforms that resemble right wing agitators escalates and creates fear. While the federal government has authority to protect federal buildings and officials from harm, there is precarious legal authority for detaining citizens without probable cause. Trump has praised these actions and threatens to utilize these tactics in other cities across America. This needless use of force creates the appearance of a secret police force operating with impunity for the political benefit of an unpopular president. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge noted that “The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism. It was not established to be the president’s personal militia.”

The State of Oregon, multiple cities, and the ACLU have responded to this threat with varying degrees of success. Senate Democrats also introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 4049) meant to limit the scope of federal police actions, but it was not included in the final legislation passed on July 23. The failed amendment would have:

  • Required individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers.
  • Prevented unmarked vehicles from being used when making arrests.
  • Limited federal agents’ crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor.
  • Required disclosure on an agency website within 24 hours of deployments specifying the number of personnel and purposes of deployment.
  • Made arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.

Demand that your representative introduce and support legislation that would halt Trump’s attempt to use a secret police force on our streets.