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Federal Agents Deployed to Cities to Arrest Non-Violent Protesters Under Questionable Circumstances


The federal government recently deployed federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security to Portland, Oregon, a number of which then arrested protesters without warrants and identification badges, and placed them into unmarked SUVs. They also indiscriminately used acoustic weapons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against non-violent protesters, legal observers, and journalists, which has raised a number of civil rights concerns, as well as prompted requests from the US Attorney for the Oregon District, Oregon’s governor, Portland’s mayor, and US Sen. Jeff Merkley, who have called for an investigation, demanded that the troops be withdrawn, and filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction prohibiting any federal officers from arresting anyone without probable cause or a warrant and requiring that they identify themselves and their agency before anyone is detained.

The incident occurred after President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to send personnel into cities with protesters in order to protect federal property during continuing protests and, in response, the Department of Homeland Security created “rapid deployment teams” consisting of officers from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Transportation Security Administration in order to do so.

Is This an Illegal Interpretation of Powers Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002?

These actions are being conducted in furtherance of the administration’s interpretation of the laws and regulations surrounding the Homeland Security Act of 2002. However, that interpretation appears to provide an effectively limitless and all-encompassing level of power: In cities like Portland, not only have officers engaged in enforcement actions while failing to identify themselves and using questionable methods on protesters, but they have also acted in spite of express opposition of local authorities.

What Can Federal Agents Do If Local Authorities Oppose Their Involvement? Do They Need Probable Cause to Conduct Arrests?

Former officials with the Department of Homeland Security have indicated that federal agents would only be dispatched to cities in this manner if local authorities requested them. Without consent from local officials, federal officials cannot rely on local and state laws to justify arrests, but can still detain protesters in areas that are technically outside of federal jurisdiction (i.e. not federal property) as long as they possess probable cause that a federal crime was committed, which was not necessarily the case concerning the arrests in Portland.

When Authorities Violate Our Civil Rights

Homeland Security’s authority is only linked to some form of human trafficking, national security, public safety, and related areas, etc. Many are now concerned that the department is using its authority to violate protesters’ First Amendment free speech rights.

Unfortunately, Portland is also not the only city where arguably unlawful arrests have occurred: A lawsuit recently filed here in Florida calls on the court to enjoin the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office from continuing to arrest peaceful protesters, making similar arguments that they have been illegal, unconstitutional, and violent.

Contact The Best in Florida Civil Rights Law

If your civil rights – including your right to peaceably assemble and your right to free speech – have been violated, contact our Orlando civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.



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