Occupying Forces

The Story

Portland, Oregon. Local officials and the federal government are in a showdown over the presence of federal agents in the state’s largest city. For over 50 consecutive days, protestors have taken to the streets to rally against police brutality and racism in response to the death of George Floyd in late May.



The Trump administration deployed federal officers to the city on July 2 in response to a 6-month long executive order authorizing federal officers to protect federal property from protesters. The acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said that ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents have been sent to the city “to bring down the level of violence.”


What’s Been Happening?

Federal authorities have been caught on tape deploying teargas on peaceful protestors and using less-lethal weapons such as batons and rubber bullets. Tear gas was recently used on a group of mothers and other protesters peacefully protesting with their hands in the air. Many reports and videos have also surfaced of unidentified agents forcing protesters into unmarked vehicles. Many protesters were never told why they were being detained or where they were being brought, leading the Oregon Attorney General to liken these actions to kidnapping.


A Showdown Between Officials

Local officials have made it clear that they do not want federal forces occupied in their city. The city’s mayor has expressed that these outsiders are “not wanted here,” and has noted that the administration’s harsh tactics are making things worse. The State Attorney General sued the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies on Friday, declaring that the unlawful detaining and arresting of demonstrators without probable cause is unconstitutional. She has also requested a restraining order that would prevent federal agents from making any more arrests.


The Response

Both President Trump and the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security have taken to Twitter to justify mobilizing the federal government. Trump has defended his actions as a beacon of law-and-order while Secretary Wolf has labeled the protesters as “lawless anarchists” bent on destroying property and creating chaos. Federal officials have indicated that they have no plans to leave the city.


The Implications

Depending on – and possibly regardless of – whether or not these tactics are found to be constitutional, the president may feel emboldened to send federal agents to other major cities. Seattle has also seen a federal presence during protests, but those forces have since been withdrawn. President Trump recently suggested that he may send additional federal officers to cities such as New York, Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, and Philadelphia, which would enable even more conflict with more protesters to ensue.