[pjw] NEWS: Homeland Security dubs Portland operation "Operation Diligent Valor" (Politico 7/22)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Thu Jul 23 13:47:28 EDT 2020
This may or may not be news to folks, but the war on terror has come home
to our streets. The Department of Homeland Security (a horrible enough
name on its own) has assembled 114 federal law enforcement agents to
battle protestors here in Portland (including, last night, Mayor Wheeler,
who got a round of tear gas-- perhaps this will change how the PPB does
their business???). The mission here is called "Operation Diligent Valor."
Below is an article from Politico outlining parts of this militaristic
occupation of our local streets.
They got a lot of the information from a court filing against a protestor
facing federal charges.*
The mission is now expanding into something being called "Operation
Legend" (named after a child who was killed in his home in Kansas City) to
quell crime in general, not just protests.
The implications are far reaching and chilling. We are opposed to war,
police misconduct and fascism, and are for civil rights, civil liberties
and meeting human needs.
At this time Jeff Merkley is trying to modify the National Defense
Authorization Act to prohibit the expanded use of federal police. This
kind of legislation is urgently needed.
He, Senator Wyden, and Reps Blumenauer and Bonamici called for
investigations into the federal presence in Portland.
Also, yesterday Portland City Council voted to prohibit collaboration
between Portland Police and the federal police engaged in "crowd control."
Trump's expanded federal police deployments do not do anything to meet the
demands of the people who've been in the streets for two months now
demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality. It has, instead,
energized a lot of people. Several PJW members and allies who had not been
to the nightly demonstrations before are going downtown because they are
incensed at the federal response.
We certainly live in interesting time.
peace and justice works
*- and it did not escape my notice that the Agent who filed the affidavit
is affiliated with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Feds assemble `Operation Diligent Valor' force to battle Portland unrest
Rapid-response squad linked to Homeland Security's "Operation Diligent
Valor" may be responsible for controversial street arrests.
Federal agents in Portland
By JOSH GERSTEIN 07/22/2020 09:37 AM EDT
Federal authorities have assembled a force of 114 federal officers to
protect U.S. government buildings in Portland, Ore., in response to
ongoing protests, unrest and violence there, as part of a mission
dubbed "Operation Diligent Valor."
Details of the federal response were disclosed in a court filing.
The team of camouflage-clad federal agents who have prompted alarm and
criticism by snatching individuals from the streets of Portland appears
to be a "Rapid Deployment Force" that is part of the Department of
Homeland Security-led operation, based on information the force's
commander submitted Tuesday night in connection with one of several
lawsuits challenging those practices.
Federal Protective Service northwest regional director Gabriel Russell
said the Rapid Deployment Force he oversees stepped up its activities
on July 4 following what he called a "brazen" attempt to set fire to
the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse the previous day.
"In response to the increasingly violent attacks, on the morning of
July 4th, the DHS Rapid Deployment Force implemented tactics intended
to positively identify and arrest serious offenders for crimes such as
assault, while protecting the rights of individuals engaged in
protected free speech activity," Russell wrote in a court declaration.
Russell said the federal agents involved in guarding the buildings and
tracking down people who commit related crimes includes contingents
from three DHS components: Federal Protective Service, Immigration and
Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, as well as the
U.S. Marshals Service, a Justice Department component which has
responsibility for protecting federal judges and courthouses.
The Trump administration is considering expanding the effort to other
cities that have experienced ongoing protests or unrest, POLITICO
Videos that have circulated widely on the internet in recent days show
men in camouflage chasing down people who appear to be protesters and
bundling them away. The agents' uniforms do say "police" but there are
often few, if any insignia, detailing what agency they represent,
whether they are local, state or federal personnel, and whether they
are civilian law enforcement or connected to the military.
Some people caught up in such sweeps say they were held at a
nondescript location and then released without charges.
Oregon's two senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, took to
the Senate floor Tuesday to call for a ban on what they described as
"paramilitary" operations on the streets of Portland.
Russell's declaration does not provide details on arrests and
detentions carried out away from the scenes of protests at Portland's
federal facilities. His declaration does detail several attacks on the
Hatfield Courthouse, allege assaults on law enforcement personnel as
well as some bizarre incidents, such as an episode where a protester
who was allegedly trespassing swallowed some sort of drug after being
arrested and began having convulsions.
After protesters were abruptly cleared from the streets near Lafayette
Park in Washington last month complained that they did not hear
warnings from police telling them to disperse, federal authorities seem
to have stepped up efforts to make sure demonstrators know when they're
being told to leave.
Russell said that early on July 12 officials used a special sound
system to advise protesters they were trespassing outside the
"Commands were made utilizing a long-range acoustic device that is
audible even with loud crowd noises," he wrote. After some of the
protesters refused to disperse and continued to throw rocks, bottles
and fireworks and pointed lasers at officers, "less-lethal projectile
rounds" and tear gas were used, Russell said.
The DHS official's declaration came in connection with a lawsuit filed
by journalists and legal observers who contend their rights were
violated in the course of law enforcement responses to the protests and
unrest. The suit originally targeted local police but the plaintiffs --
backed by the American Civil Liberties Union -- moved last week to
expand it to cover the tactics being used by federal agents.
The suit seeks an injunction allowing reporters, photographers and
legal observers to remain on the scene and carry out their activities,
even after protesters are told to depart. But Justice Department
lawyers say that's "not a practicable option" and could even be
"There is no dispute that protesters who do not disperse after a lawful
order is given may be arrested. Having an unspecified number of people
who lawfully may remain, however, will not only greatly complicate
efforts to clear an area and restore order, it will also present a
clear risk to safety," the Justice Department submission says.
A hearing on the journalists' suit is set for Thursday, but a hearing
is set for Wednesday on another case, filed last week by Oregon
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. She's seeking a temporary restraining
order to preclude federal law enforcement agents from anonymously
detaining individuals in the state.
Rosenblum has asked the court to order that federal agents only detain
people based on warrants or probable cause, identify themselves to
suspects being detained, and explain why the suspect is being held.
An individual protester who says he was beaten by federal agents during
a protest in Portland Saturday night, Jeff Paul, also filed his own
lawsuit Tuesday against President Donald Trump, acting DHS Secretary
Chad Wolf and others.
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