Protesters hit with gas as locals demand feds leave Portland

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Protesters gather during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., Thursday, July 16, 2020. Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters late Thursday. The actions came just hours after the head of the Department of Homeland Security called the protesters violent anarchists. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Militarized federal agents deployed by the president to Portland, Oregon, fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.

Federal agents, some wearing camouflage and some wearing dark Homeland Security uniforms, used tear gas at least twice to break up crowds late Friday night, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been a nightly feature in deeply liberal Portland since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25. President Donald Trump has decried the disorder and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf blasted the protesters as “lawless anarchists” in a visit to the city, helping make the clashes between police and demonstrators a national focus.

The administration has enlisted federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property. But Oregon Public Broadcasting reported this week that some agents had been driving around in unmarked vans and snatching protesters from streets not near federal property, without identifying themselves.

Tensions also escalated after an officer with the Marshals Service fired a less-lethal round at a protester’s head on July 11, critically injuring him.

The agents' actions have prompted outrage from elected officials and civil liberties groups, with Mayor Ted Wheeler demanding at a news conference Friday: “Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city."

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown said Trump is looking for a confrontation in the hopes of winning political points elsewhere and distracting from his widely panned response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Homeland Security and Marshals Service on Friday on behalf of journalists and legal observers who had been hit with tear gas and rubber bullets, adding the federal agencies to a lawsuit the organization had already filed against local police.