Oregon AG seeks restraining order against federal officers in Portland

Oregon AG seeks restraining order against federal officers in Portland

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a request for a temporary restraining order against federal officers in Portland. Today U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman heard arguments in the case. Mosman works inside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse which has been the focus of protesters for several weeks and which is also the building federal agents in Portland have been trying to protect.

The motion for a temporary restraining order asks the judge to immediately command agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Marshals Service to immediately stop detaining protesters without probable cause, to identify themselves before arresting anyone and to explain why an arrest is taking place.

During the hearing — held by videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic — Rosenblum said she was asking the court to “declare it not acceptable for federal officers to use unconstitutional police state-type acts to detain citizens of Oregon without cause.”

Judge Mosman appeared to be partly but not wholly convinced by the claim that federal officers were rounding people up without probable cause.

Mosman said the declaration of one man, who said in court papers that he was arrested by federal agents for no reason and later released, seemed meet the bar for Oregon’s motion for a temporary restraining order.

But in a back-and-forth with Oregon attorneys, Mosman focused on a Twitter video of another arrest that showed a person being placed in an unmarked van and seemed skeptical of the state’s argument that that arrest in particular was made without probable cause.

One thing not mentioned in the AP coverage of the hearing is any claim that the federal police are unmarked or “secret.” A significant number of elected Democrats have used that language in the past several days, likely after talking points were sent out:

We’ll have to wait and see how the judge rules. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security held a press conference yesterday to specifically lay out their authority to protect a federal courthouse and even to arrest people off the courthouse grounds who they witness committing crimes at the courthouse. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said, “The law is clear on what our authority entails. Specifically, federal statute states that the Secretary of Homeland Security, and I’m quoting, ‘shall protect building, grounds and property that are owned occupied and secured by the federal government.’

“The law goes on to state that the department can conduct investigations, again I’m quoting, ‘on and off property in question on offenses that may have been committed against property owned and occupied by the federal government or persons on that property.’ In other words, we are expressly allowed to leave federal property to conduct investigations and arrest individuals who have damaged federal property.”

Richard Cline, Deputy Director of the Federal Protective Service said when protesters began focusing their attacks on the federal buildings in the area the regular force was “overwhelmed” and requested help from CBP and ICE. Describing the nightly attacks on the building and the officers at the federal building Cline said, “You’ve seen the green lasers that are being used out there.” He continued, “We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks.” He said officers have now been given anti-laser glasses to protect them.

Mark Morgan, the senior official currently performing the duties of the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, spoke specifically about the claims that the federal agents are secret or unmarked. “I’ve been in law enforcement for almost three decades. The use of unmarked vehicles is a standard procedure, standard practice among every local, state and federal law enforcement agency in this country, actually in the world.” Morgan went on to say that the use of unmarked vehicles made sense because marked police vehicles have been targeted for vandalism and arson in cities around the country.

As for the uniforms, Morgan brought examples of two uniforms and showed that every federal officer’s uniform said police on the front and back and also included patches that identified the specif agency and units they were from. “First and foremost you see, clearly marked, that they are part of the Customs and Border Protection. The second line of marking is, it shows the component within CBP that they are associated with, in this instance the border patrol.

“Clearly police. It’s marked on the front and the back. Clearly. Every single agent. In addition to that they have a unique identifier. Deputy Director Cline said he doesn’t have his officers wear name tags because they are being doxed. That’s exactly right.”

As for why the agents were wearing camouflage, that’s because the CBP agents are wearing the same uniform they wear on the border. They haven’t been given new uniforms just because they are temporarily operating in a city.

Here’s the full DHS press conference:

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