Oregon Sues to Block Federal Arrests of Portland Protesters

Oregon Sues to Block Federal Arrests of Portland Protesters
Federal officers use tear gas and other crowd dispersal munitions on violent demonstrators in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Oregon has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other federal agencies, alleging that their officers have violated the civil rights of Oregonians by detaining them without probable cause.

Ellen Rosenblum, the state's attorney general, filed the lawsuit on July 17, saying she was concerned about the federal law enforcement tactics being employed. Some of the tactics the lawsuit alleges have happened include detaining protesters on the streets of Portland and placing them in unmarked vehicles without arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest.

In one incident on July 15, the lawsuit states, a man named Mark Pettibone was confronted by armed men dressed in camouflage who took him off the streets, pushed him into a van, then drove him to a building believed to be the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.

Pettibone alleged that he was put into a cell there and read his Miranda rights but was not told why he was arrested. He said he was released without any paperwork, citation, or record of his arrest, the lawsuit states.

"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."

The U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) released a statement on July 17 defending a similar arrest of a protester in Portland. In that incident, which had been captured on camera, the agency said they had information indicating that the individual in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents and for destroying federal property.

Once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob started moving toward them, the agency said, adding that the agents, who had identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter, then quickly made the decision to move the suspect to a safer location for further questioning to ensure everyone's safety.

"While the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated," the agency said in the statement. "Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as injure federal officers and agents. These criminal actions will not be tolerated."

The lawsuit claims that the federal agencies violated the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights of Oregonians.

Rosenblum also announced that state prosecutors are launching a criminal investigation into an incident where a protestor was allegedly seriously injured by a federal law enforcement agent.

Donavan LaBella, 26, was seriously injured after allegedly being struck by an impact munition on July 11. The incident was captured on video, which shows him standing across from the Hatfield federal courthouse while holding a speaker over his head with both hands. At one moment, a canister of smoke or tear gas lands next to him, which he kicks away. After returning to his initial position, shots of impact munitions can be heard, and LaBella collapsed to the ground moments later.

The other agencies that were named in the lawsuit include the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protective Services.

The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

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