Federal law enforcement agents using unmarked, rented vans are grabbing and “detaining” random protestors from the streets of Portland, Oregon, in an unprecedented and legally-questionably move. One demonstrator described his experience in great detail. Later, the Dept. of Homeland Security denied arresting or even detaining the man.
“Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14,” Oregon Public Broadcasting‘s Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson report. “Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.”
“Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC, have been sent to Portland to protect federal property during the recent protests against racism and police brutality,” Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports.
Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC unit is a group of elite tactical agents that “acts essentially as the SWAT team of the Border Patrol,” as The New York Times reported back in February. President Donald Trump, the week after his impeachment trial in the Senate failed, sent BORTAC units to at least eight major U.S. sanctuary cities to round up and arrest undocumented immigrants.
Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea described to OPB their experience with federal agents on the streets of Portland.
“Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets,” O’Shea says in a video he shot which was provided to OPB. “I didn’t do anything fucking wrong. I’m recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens.”
“I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone told OPB. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”
Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn’t identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn’t learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.
Federal law enforcement denied to OPB Pettibone was arrested or detained.
“All United States Marshals Service arrestees have public records of arrest documenting their charges. Our agency did not arrest or detain Mark James Pettibone.”
The Dept. of Homeland Security refused to respond to any of OPB’s questions on Pettibone’s arrest.
“It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” attorney Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, told OPB.
“You have laws regarding probable cause that can lead to arrests,” he said. “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.”
Read Oregon Public Broadcasting’s entire report here.
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