Watch: Sen. Merkley Says Bill Will Stop ‘Peaceful Protester’ Arrests

CORRECTS DAY AND DATE TO FRIDAY JULY 10. - In this Friday, July 10, 2020 file photo, a waste receptacle's contents are in flames as protesters gather in downtown Portland, Ore. The mayor of Portland, Oregon said late Sunday the U.S. Marshals Service are investigating the injury of a protester …
Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP

The city of Portland, Oregon, has seen weeks of violent protests that have destroyed property and threatened public safety, but Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) vowed to amend the Defense Authorization Act when he returns to Washington, DC, to rebuke the Trump administration for arresting “peaceful protesters” as riots were declared in the city.

Taxpayer-funded National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Merkley about critics of President Donald Trump for his efforts to protect federal property in that Oregon city:

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown and other officials are calling for the removal of federal law enforcement officers from the city of Portland. The Trump administration deployed those forces saying they are there to protect federal property in the city amid ongoing protests.

But this week, officials from across the city and state and their congressional representatives have raised serious objections to their tactics after camouflaged federal agents went into the streets with tear gas and tactical gear arresting protesters and taking some away in unmarked vans without, the protesters have said, explanation.

“Well, you and three other members of Congress wrote last night to Attorney General William Barr and the acting Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, calling for these agents to be removed from Portland. Tell us briefly why you issued that call. And have you gotten a response yet?” NPR host Michel Martin asked.

“This is an extraordinary circumstance,” Merkley said. “The Customs and Border Protection and the marshals are deploying people to the streets of Portland.”

“They’re doing so – at least the CBP forces, Customs and Border Protection – they are marked just with a generic police,” Merkley said. “You have no idea who they represent.”

“And then they’re outside, beyond the boundaries of the federal buildings, grabbing people on the streets, throwing them into unmarked vans, not disclosing even at that point what agency they represent,” Merkley said. “This is the type of unmarked paramilitary presence that you would expect in a dictatorship, not in a democratic republic.”

“It’s absolutely terrifying to people,” Merkley said. “It’s unacceptable. It has to end.”

Merkley cited a protester being seriously injured and blamed it on law enforcement’s effort to quell the violence.

“So they’ve come in, they’ve escalated the situation, made it far worse,” Merkley said. “Now I’m sure it’s going to go far forward because everyone responds in – when a peaceful protester is shot, when a peaceful protester is grabbed and thrown into an unmarked van and says, this is outrageous.”

“It infuriates people,” Merkley said. “And it – they should be infuriated because this is wrong.”

Merkley discussed the legislation he will introduce in the Senate.

“I will be putting forward legislation on the Defense Authorization Act that’s on the floor of the Senate right now to try to force a debate on this and say, listen – deployment has to be limited to the federal property,” Merkley said. “You have to label who you are with, what agency you represent.”

“You have to have a unique identifier, so if there is bad actions, you have some way of knowing who that individual was, that you cannot use unmarked vans and that if you are beyond the boundaries of a federal property, you have to have the permission of the mayor or the governor,” Merkley said.

“This type of secret force operation – we have not seen this in America,” Merkley said. “It cannot become practice in America. We have to put an end to it.”

Neither NPR or Merkley mentioned the violence taking place in the city.

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