Oregon AG Files Lawsuit Challenging Federal Detention of Portland Protesters

In this July 8, 2020 photo, a worker washes graffiti off the sidewalk in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland, Ore., as two agents with the U.S. Marshals Service emerge from the boarded-up main entrance.

In this July 8, 2020 photo, a worker washes graffiti off the sidewalk in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland, Ore., as two agents with the U.S. Marshals Service emerge from the boarded-up main entrance. AP Photo


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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Illinois House speaker linked to federal investigation … Nevada legislature looks for budget cuts … Maine lobstermen say PPP not effective help.

The Oregon Department of Justice filed a lawsuit seeking to keep federal law enforcement officers from “seizing and detaining” residents “without probable cause,” a reference to unidentified agents pulling protesters into unmarked vans in Portland. Oregon Public Broadcasting last week first reported that federal law enforcement officers in camouflage uniforms drove around in unmarked vans at night, apprehending protesters out on the streets and seeking to question them. In some cases, the protesters were released. The officers also filed charges in 13 cases. “It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center. The lawsuit by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum asks a judge to issue a restraining order that “would immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians” and find that their actions have been unconstitutional. Local Democratic elected officials have complained about the federal response to protests since an officer used “non-lethal” munitions against a protester outside the federal courthouse who ended up being critically injured. Mayor Ted Wheeler said federal actions had “escalated, rather than de-escalated, already heightened tensions in our city.” Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who visited Portland last week, said the city had "under siege for 47 straight days,” while calling protesters “anarchists.” In a statement, Wolf wrote, "A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice—to attack it is to attack America.” However, an internal DHS memo raised questions about whether the tactical agents deployed by the agency had proper training in the response to mass demonstrations, according to a report in the New York Times. “Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies,” the memo stated. (President Trump last week said he would soon make an announcement about federal law enforcement intervention in cities.) Protests against police brutality did continue through the weekend, with groups gathering to call for police reform and chanting “Black lives matter.” On Saturday night, one group of protesters tried to dismantle the fence around the federal courthouse, with agents dispersing protesters with flash bangs and pepper spray. People also broke into a Portland Police Association office and lit a fire, while police declared that protest a riot. While local police say they aren’t coordinating with federal agencies, a report in The Oregonian said there is evidence that they are cooperating to some extent. [Oregon Public Broadcasting; Washington Post; CNN]

ILLINOIS SPEAKER | Federal investigators are looking at Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, court documents made clear last week, naming him as a participant in a corruption scheme involving the state’s largest utility. A court filing accuses Commonwealth Edison of providing jobs and subcontracts for Madigan’s associates, even though they did little work, while the company tried to get legislation through the state Capitol. The utility has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and pay a $200 million fine. Madigan, a Democrat, denies any wrongdoing, saying through a spokeswoman that “he has done nothing criminal or improper.” Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, said the speaker should resign if the allegations are true and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle agreed. But many other Democrats serving in the legislature were more reticent. [Chicago Tribune; Chicago Sun-Times; WBEZ

NEVADA BUDGET CUTS | Nevada lawmakers gathered for a special session passed the first cuts to the state budget over the weekend, but have managed to save some health care programs that had been on the chopping block. Officials have said the state has a $1.2 billion budget gap. [Nevada Independent

OKLAHOMA LAW | The state of Oklahoma announced an agreement with the Five Tribes about the future handling of criminal cases on reservation land, an issue raised by a recent Supreme Court decision. But it’s not certain all of the tribes are on board the agreement, which would have to be passed into law by Congress. Leaders of two of the tribes released statements distancing themselves from the deal. [The Oklahoman; Indian Country Today]

LOBSTER RELIEF | A third of Maine lobstermen received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, but the average amounts were modest. Given the economic downturn, lobster, often sold at high-end restaurants, has seen a steep decline in demand. “A lot of people got very small loans that helped in the short term, at the start of the crisis, but now the crisis is dragging on and lobstering season hasn’t even really started,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. [Press Herald]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty.

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