Portland, Oakland Sue Trump Administration for Efforts to Maintain Law and Order in U.S. Cities

Protesters gesture toward Portland police following a crowd dispersal early in the morning on October 7, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Federal officers and Portland police responded with arrests and tear gas after protesters marched on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center on Tuesday night. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday claiming that the Trump administration’s effort to maintain law and order in U.S. cities and to protect federal property was unconstitutional. 

The lawsuit said that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security unconstitutionally took over police duties in those cities, where, in the case of Portland, police have faced almost nightly violent riots that have resulted in property damage, injuries, and even deaths.

The genesis of the lawsuit comes from President Donald Trump signing an executive order in June to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to protect the American people and federal property.

The local ABC affiliate in Portland reported on the lawsuit:

The cities sued the departments’ leaders, Attorney General William Barr and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, in their official capacities as well and asked the judge to forbid the federal agencies of sending officers to the cities. The 48-page lawsuit was filed in federal court in California.

Among the allegations, the cities said the federal government’s policies to send in officers to protect federal property instead “reveal a distinct and meaningful policy shift to use federal law enforcement to unilaterally step in or replace local law enforcement departments that do not subscribe to the President’s view of domestic “law and order.””

Portland and Oakland city attorneys asked a federal judge to rule the practice of sending in federal officers unconstitutional and pointed to the recent federal deputation of Portland police officers as an example of the federal government “commandeering” local law enforcement, despite requests from local leaders to de-deputize the officers. 

The request to deputize came ahead of an expected clash between Antifa and the right-wing group Proud Boys in Portland on a recent weekend, although no altercation between the groups transpired.

“The U.S. Attorney for Oregon and the Marshals Service have refused to cancel the deputization, which officially expires on Dec. 31,” KATU reported, and also noted that Oakland joined the lawsuit because of concerns the Trump administration might send U.S. agents to Oakland or deputize police officers in that city. 

The lawsuit also alleges the federal government illegally erected a fence around the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which is federal property.

DHS reacted to the lawsuit.

“Yet again, dangerous politicians and fringe special interest groups have ginned up a meritless lawsuit,” a spokesperson from DHS said. “They aim to harm President Trump and distract from his law and order agenda.”

“Department of Homeland Security have acted entirely lawfully,” the spokesperson said. “Instead of condemning the violence we are seeing across the country, these politicians focus on scoring cheap political points to the detriment of the American people.”

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