U.S. prosecutors on Friday unveiled charges against 18 Portland, Oregon, protesters ranging from assaulting police to arson and trespassing, a day after the Trump administration expanded the deployment of tactical police to Seattle.
The arrests came this week during clashes with specially equipped federal police agents sent to Portland, where 56 straight days of antiracism demonstrations have captured national attention.
The federal forces have drawn criticism from Democrats and civil liberties groups who allege excessive force and federal overreach by President Donald Trump.
The deployment of federal officers has also drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department inspector general, who announced an investigation of their use of force, and prompted a federal judge to issue a temporary order limiting their use of force and blocking them from arresting journalists and legal observers of street protests.
The Trump administration sent a tactical team to Seattle on Thursday in anticipation of protests this weekend despite the objections of the Seattle mayor and Washington state governor, who warned of a Portland-like escalation of tensions.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Brian Moran said in a statement that federal agents are stationed in Seattle to protect federal properties and the work done in those buildings.
“Let’s not let the violence that has marred the Portland protests damage peaceful movements here for a more just society,” Moran said. “My hope is our community will speak with one voice to discourage those who seek to hijack peaceful protests with damage and destruction.”
The Trump administration has also sent federal police to Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque over the objections of those mayors.
Trump, who is running for re-election on Nov. 3 in part on a campaign of law and order, has threatened to deploy federal forces in more cities run by Democratic mayors, who he accuses of being soft on crime.
The Portland team of tactically equipped, camouflaged officers fired tear gas canisters at Black Lives Matter demonstrators in central Portland early on Friday, taking on a policing role typically reserved for local law enforcement.
“I made clear to Acting Secretary (Chad) Wolf that deployments in Seattle – like we have seen in Portland – would undermine public safety and break community trust,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said on Twitter late on Thursday, referring to the acting secretary of Homeland Security.
On Friday, The Seattle Times reported, she said she’s worried that a small group of people are bent on disrupting protests, damaging property and provoking violence. As evidence, she pointed to vandalism, fires and injuries during nighttime protests two days earlier this week.
She said she feared what has happened in Portland — nightly, violent clashes between protesters and camouflaged federal agents — could happen in Seattle just as easily.
“I cannot overstate it enough, what is happening is frightening to me,” Durkan said at a Friday morning news conference, the local paper reported. “It is frightening that you would use federal agents for political purposes.”
“He is doing that, he is purposefully targeting Democratic cities,” she said, referring to the president.
She also claimed she’d gotten little clarity from ederal officials who first told her no federal agents would be coming to Seattle, then said they’d be coming with the specific mission of safeguarding federal buildings.
“I don’t want to say I was lied to, but I think there was maybe semantics that weren’t forthcoming,” she said, addiug that she’d not been given specifics on the number of agents involved, the paper reported.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee warned that federal officers might “make the thing worse and throw gasoline on a fire.”
Portland has been rocked by nearly two months of demonstrations for racial equality and against police brutality, part of a movement that has swept the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African American, in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The Justice Department said all 18 of those charged in Portland had made a first appearance in federal court and were released pending trial or other proceedings.
Five people were charged with suspicion of assaulting a federal officer, trespassing and creating a disturbance during protests on Monday night through Tuesday, said Billy Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
Seven people have been charged in connection with criminal conduct during a July Tuesday night-Wednesday protest, including one person charged with arson. Another six were charged over events from Wednesday night into Thursday.
Newsmax’s Jeffrey Rubin contributed to this report.
Quote: “He is doing that, he is purposefully targeting Democratic cities,” You mean the cities that are having the riots? Yes, funny isn’t it how the president is only targeting those cities instead of sending federal officers into peaceful cities.
I want those 18 publicly perp walked and their trials made very public. Full media coverage of their sentencing required for all to see.