Three Democratic House committee chairs have called on government watchdogs to probe the recent use of federal force in response to protest violence.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appear to have increasingly abused emergency authorities to justify the use of force against Americans exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
“Reports from Oregon this week make clear that this misuse of resources and personnel remains a growing threat," they stated in the letter. "Accordingly, we write to request an investigation by your offices into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to suppress First Amendment protected activities in Washington, D.C., Portland, and other communities across the United States."
"As the crowd was dispersed, several people in the crowd were arrested and officers were able to extinguish the fire. Portland Police did not use any CS gas," the bureau said July 19.
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter on July 19 that he is seeking to help Portland after months of protests and riots by sending in federal law enforcement.
The lawmakers wrote in their letter that investigating the use of federal force to quell protest violence “is a matter of utmost urgency.”
“Citizens are concerned that the Administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country. Therefore, we ask that you commence your review of these issues immediately,” they wrote.
The use of federal officers to respond to protest-related violence also has triggered a backlash from Portland's mayor and Oregon's governor.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, called on the Trump administration to pull back on federal response units, claiming that those actions are adding fuel to the unrest.
"Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city," Wheeler said July 17.
"These tactics must stop," Rosenblum said in a statement. "They not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully, they also create a more volatile situation on our streets."