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Federal presence in Portland gives protests new momentum

Hwy. 20 moms dads protest KGW 720
Moms and dads join in Portland protest Monday evening

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Far from tamping down on the unrest, the presence of federal agents on the streets of Portland has given new momentum to protests that had begun to devolve into smaller, chaotic crowds.

The use of federal agents against the will of local officials has also set up the potential for a constitutional crisis — and one that could escalate as President Donald Trump says he plans to send federal agents to other cities.

Demonstrations that had shrunk to fewer than 100 people have swelled to more than 1,000 people.

Federal agents again used force to scatter protesters early Tuesday and deployed tear gas and rubber bullets as some in the crowd banged on the doors of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and attempted to pull plywood off the shuttered entryway.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement that some protesters lit fires in the street and tried several times to light fires at the courthouse doors.

“It is time for the Trump troops to go home and focus their attention on other activities,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said on MSNBC.

In a news conference Wednesday in Washington, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the agency’s response in Portland, saying it has clear authority to protect government property and detain people suspected of threatening personnel or damaging such property.

He disputes that unidentified agents have arrested people, noting they have the word “police” on their uniforms. He said agents have been assaulted with lasers, bats, fireworks, bottles and other weapons and “yet the city of Portland takes little to no action.”

Wolf said the people committing the vandalism should not be considered legitimate protesters. He said DHS officers wear camouflage, as they do when they work on the border.

“These police officers are not storm troopers, they are not Gestapo. That description is offensive,” Wolf said.

But constitutional law experts said federal officers’ actions are “unprecedented” and a “red flag” in what could become a test case of states’ rights as the Trump administration expands federal policing.

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Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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The Associated Press


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