Photo: From left, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman look on as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum speaks at a press conference on April 3, 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
On July 17, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit in federal court against the United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Marshals Service, the United States Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protection Service and their agents alleging they have engaged in unlawful law enforcement in violation of the civil rights of Oregonians by seizing and detaining them without probable cause (see AG Rosenblum vs John Does 1-10 Complaint).
The lawsuit will be followed by a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) regarding the forcible detainment of an Oregon resident, Mark Pettibone. If granted, the TRO would immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians. Rosenblum’s actions come in response to two disturbing incidents that occurred this week. Both involved federal authorities overstepping their powers and injuring or threatening peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.
The first of these took place on July 12, 2020, when a peaceful protester was standing near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. The protester was hit in the head with an “impact weapon” and suffered severe injuries. The second occurred July 16, 2020, also in downtown Portland, when an unmarked minivan with undercover federal agents wearing generic green military fatigues forcibly detained Pettibone, who was walking on a sidewalk. Pettibone was later held at the Federal Courthouse, and eventually was let go.
The Oregon Department of Justice Criminal Justice Division has also opened an investigation into the July 12 incident. It is joined in this criminal investigation by Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill.
Statement from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:
“I share the concerns of our state and local leaders – and our Oregon U.S. Senators and certain Congressional representatives – that the current escalation of fear and violence in downtown Portland is being driven by federal law enforcement tactics that are entirely unnecessary and out of character with the Oregon way. These tactics must stop. 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. We are today asking the federal court to stop the federal police from secretly stopping and forcibly grabbing Oregonians off our streets, and we are announcing a state criminal investigation, with the Multnomah County District Attorney, into the incident resulting in serious injuries to a peaceful protester — apparently committed by a federal police officer in downtown Portland last week.
“The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere.”
Read an article the JTA posted this week regarding the situation here.