The mayors of six US cities have appealed to Congress to make it illegal for the federal government to deploy militarised federal agents to cities that do not want them, even as the Trump administration is considering sending more of them to Portland, Oregon.
“This administration’s egregious use of federal force on cities over the objections of local authorities should never happen,” the mayors of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque and Washington DC wrote to leaders of the US House and Senate.
Early on Monday, US agents repeatedly fired what appeared to be tear gas, stun grenades and pepper balls at protesters outside the federal courthouse in central Portland.
Some protesters had climbed over the fence surrounding the courthouse, while others shot fireworks, banged on the fence and projected lights on the building.
President Donald Trump said on Monday that the federal properties in Portland “wouldn’t last a day” without the presence of the federal agents.
The Homeland Security department is considering sending about 50 additional Customs and Border Protection agents to Portland, according to an administration source. The plan has not been finalised and it is not clear if the officers would be replacing the officers on the ground.
The Trump administration says the forces are needed in Portland to protect the courthouse and other federal buildings, but the mayors said the officers have patrolled areas far from the federal properties and arrested citizens without cause.
The mayors said they support legislative efforts to require notice and consultation with and consent from local authorities before deployments; require visible identification at all times on federal agents and vehicles unless on an undercover mission authorised by local prosecutors; and impose limitations on agents’ crowd control activities to protecting federal property.
At the direction of the President of the United States, unidentified federal agents have been deployed to America’s cities, like Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, to interrupt local protests and impose “law and order” for political purposes. pic.twitter.com/aTOWv90RXT
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) July 27, 2020
Some protesters have accused Portland mayor Ted Wheeler of hypocrisy because he has allowed city police to use tear gas and other riot-control weapons on protesters, including peaceful ones.
Demonstrations in support of racial justice and police reform in other cities around the US were hit with violence over the weekend.
Protesters set fire to a courthouse in Oakland, California; vehicles were set on fire in Richmond, Virginia; an armed protester was shot and killed in Austin, Texas; and two people were shot and wounded in Aurora, Colorado, after a car was driven through a protest.
On Sunday evening, Portland police responded to a shooting at a park close to the site of the overnight protests. Two people were detained and later released, police said on Monday morning. The person who was shot was taken to hospital in a private vehicle and was treated for a non-life threatening wound.
Also late on Sunday, officers found loaded rifle magazines and petrol bombs in the same park. The shooting was not related to the items, police said. It was not clear whether the shooting or the material found in the bag was was connected to the protests.
The city has had nightly protests for two months since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Mr Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials said they are making the situation worse.