Protesters in Portland, Ore., say federal agents donning camouflage and driving unmarked vans have been detaining protesters around the city’s downtown area since at least July 14. Stories about the arrests have been corroborated by multiple people, as well as videos showing the officers arresting protesters without explanation, shoving them into the cars, and driving off.
First reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the arrests may be tied to a push to protect federal property during the Black Lives Matter protests that have continued for the last eight weeks:
The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.
But according to interviews with demonstrators, federal agents are arresting people who aren’t near federal property, “nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity.” Protesters say they believe they were stopped simply for wearing black clothing near the BLM protests.
Among them is Mark Pettibone who was detained by at least four agents wearing camo early on July 15. He and his friend, Conner O’Shea, were thrown in the back of an unmarked minivan as they were walking away from a protest. It had been peaceful. The agents in the van did not identify themselves.
Pettibone was taken to a cell in a federal courthouse where he was read his Miranda rights, but never told why he was arrested. When Pettibone declined to waive his rights for an interview and asked for a lawyer, the questioning promptly stopped. He was released about 90 minutes later, and received no paperwork, citation, or record of his arrest, reports OPB.
“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” Pettibone told the news outlet. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”
In the last few weeks, White House occupant Donald Trump has been singularly focused on antifa and the so-called lawlessness of BLM protesters, even as men affiliated with far-right groups have been the only ones to be arrested for slaying federal law enforcement. In Portland, the worst offense appears to be graffiti that has covered the federal courthouse over the last several workhouse.
Earlier this week, Trump praised the presence of federal agents in Portland and suggested that more would be dispatched in cities throughout the country.