July 20, 2020

Harris, Colleagues Announce Legislation to Block Federal Paramilitary Occupations in Portland and Other American Cities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Monday joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), in announcing that they are introducing the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which would block the Trump administration from deploying federal forces as a shadowy paramilitary against Americans.

The bill comes after a week in which heavily armed, unmarked federal forces in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the street in Portland.  Those forces have deployed munitions and tear gas against protesters nightly over the weekend. The federal incursion has inflamed conflict in Portland at a time when local leaders are working to de-escalate friction between protesters and police and has been opposed by Portland’s and Oregon’s elected leaders.

The Senators also introduced the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is currently debating.

“Donald Trump is ordering unidentified law enforcement to violate Americans’ civil rights,” said Harris. “These actions are those of an authoritarian regime and do not represent who we are as a nation. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to pass this measure immediately– we are better than this.”

“What we have seen in the last 10 days in Portland has been horrific and unconscionable,” said Merkley. “Federal forces have shot an unarmed protester in the head with impact munitions, and paramilitary forces in camouflage have been grabbing people off the streets and putting them into unmarked vans. These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not a democratic republic. This gross violation of Americans’ civil rights must end immediately.”

"Donald Trump's occupying army continues to trample on the constitutional rights of Oregonians and escalate violence against peaceful protesters," Wyden said. "If Congress doesn't step in, these authoritarian tactics won't stop in my hometown. If it can happen in Portland, it can happen anywhere."

"Unidentified federal law enforcement are pulling protestors off the street into unmarked vans and detaining them without explanation. That's the kind of behavior we expect from dictatorships, not the United States of America. Without identification there is no way to hold these officers accountable, and there is no way to know if they are really federal officers. We cannot allow an American secret police. I hope that Republicans will join us in recognizing the severity of this threat and include this legislation in the NDAA,” said Murphy.

“The Trump Administration’s egregious trampling of individual liberties and the right of free assembly should never have been allowed to happen. Yet it’s clear that the Gestapo-like tactics used in Washington, D.C. and now Portland are likely a dress rehearsal for other communities around the country,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “We must block this type of dangerous and undemocratic behavior once and for all.”

“It is outrageous that there are newly deployed, unidentified federal officers on Portland streets,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. “This is what authoritarian regimes do; it’s not what we do in the United States. We must hold law enforcement accountable for violating the Constitutional rights of Oregonians and for escalating tensions in our community, and we must pass this legislation to block Trump from sending unidentified officers to operate with impunity in Portland and other cities across the country.”

Specifically, today’s legislation would:

  1. Require individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers and prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests.
  2. Limit federal agents’ crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor.
  3. Require disclosure on an agency website within 24 hours of deployments specifying the number of personnel and purposes of deployment.
  4. Make arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.

In addition to Harris, Merkley, Wyden, and Murphy, the legislation and the Senate NDAA amendment are cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The full text of the Senate NDAA amendment can be found HERE.

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