FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For the past two months, after the police killing of George Floyd, tens of thousands of Portland residents have continued to engage in daily demonstrations against police violence and in support of the movement for Black lives. In response, the Portland Police and Multnomah County Sheriffs have used unnecessary and unlawful violence against them, including tear gas, OC spray, flash bang grenades, and other so-called “less than lethal” weapons to dispel protestors, enforcing a curfew in the early days and after the curfew was lifted, simply using force to clear the streets. The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG-PDX) has had Legal Observers in the streets every day and night who, along with members of the press, have also been the subject of police violence. NLG-PDX condemns the federal government and its use of Border Control and U.S. Marshals in their effort to act as anti-protest shock troops in our city. We call on the federal government, the City of Portland, and the State of Oregon to immediately expel federal law enforcement from Portland, and for all charges related to arrests by those forces to be immediately and summarily dropped.
Members of NLG-PDX continue to monitor law enforcement conduct on the ground as Legal Observers, provide jail and court support to demonstrators who have been arrested, provide Know Your Rights training to community members, and have connected protesters, journalists, and movement organizations with criminal and civil litigation. On behalf of local Black-led organization Don’t Shoot Portland, protesters, and members of the press, the NLG-PDX has filed two legal actions against local law enforcement, resulting in a court-ordered injunction against the indiscriminate use of tear gas and other weapons against demonstrators engaging in passive resistance. In addition, the protests and community-led campaigns have resulted in the first signs of long overdue action by the Portland City Council to begin the process of defunding the police by pulling police out of schools and off public transit, eliminating a police task force aimed primarily at Black communities, and taking $15 million from the police budget (far short of the $50 million demanded by community members) and allocating some of those funds for nonpunitive support for unhoused people.
As the protests continued, President Donald Trump saw an opportunity to distract from his failures with the COVID-19 pandemic and burnish his credentials as a so-called “law and order president.” On the 4th of July, President Trump deployed federal law enforcement officers to Portland to “quell” the demonstrations. These federal officers—apparently including U.S. Marshals and members of BORTAC, a tactical unit within Border Patrol—have routinely subjected demonstrators to unconscionable violence. They have broken protesters’ bones with baton strikes and tackles, shot at least one protester in the head with so-called “less lethal” munitions, and indiscriminately launched huge amounts of tear gas and other chemical agents at crowds of demonstrators, all without warning. These officers do not wear name badges; they are unidentifiable and unaccountable as they terrorize Portlanders on a nightly basis. Recently, unidentified agents in military camouflage pulled random protesters into unmarked vans, taking them into custody to search their persons and belongings. To date, residents and local officials have not received an explanation or reason why federal agents are abducting people off our streets. When Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf visited the city this week to applaud the actions of this federal occupying force, he did not meet with the Mayor or the Chief of Police but did meet with the defiant head of Portland Police union. Alarmingly, on Monday Trump applauded the disturbing actions of federal troops in Portland saying they have done a “fantastic job,” and has signaled that similar responses to protests may be replicated in other U.S. cities.
NLG-PDX continues to stand in solidarity with activists fighting for Black liberation. We highlight the cruel irony that those protesting police brutality are met with police brutality, and we condemn the conduct of federal and local law enforcement officers who continue to escalate tactics and punish protesters in violation of their First and Fourth Amendment rights. We echo activists’ demands that federal law enforcement leave our city, and support our community’s continued resistance against the encroachment of a police state.
NOTE: The NLG National Office has launched a Federal Defense Hotline for activists and lawyers to report incidents of federal repression, such as FBI “door-knocks” at activists’ homes, grand jury investigations and subpoenas, and any other federal law enforcement efforts to undermine civil rights, including federal grab squads and the use of unidentified federal agents to police protests. The line is live at: 212-679-2811.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
- 7/21/20: NLG Announces Federal Defense Hotline
- 7/14/20: [WEBINAR] Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements
- 6/10/20: NLG Statement in Support of#8ToAbolition
- 6/7/20: Police Targeting NLG Legal Observers at Black Lives Matter Protests
- 6/2/20: NLG Statement on the President’s Unlawful Declaration of Antifa as a Domestic Terrorist Organization
- 6/1/20: NLG Condemns Violent Police Response to Black Lives Matter Protests Nationwide