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The ACLU Is Suing The Trump Administration Over Its Repression Of Portland Protests

The civil liberties group says protesters were brutalized by federal agents.

Posted on August 26, 2020, at 4:06 p.m. ET

A protester with blood on their face and body, goggles on their forehead, and holding a trumpet stands in the busy street
Nathan Howard / Getty Images

A protester screams at federal officers after they used tear gas and "less lethal" weapons.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, who say they were shot with rubber bullets and pepper balls, hit with pepper spray, beaten with batons, and arrested and detained unlawfully.

In the lawsuit over federal agents' conduct during July protests in Portland, the ACLU is asking for monetary damages and a judgment that the administration and the federal agents violated the Constitution and federal statutes.

Filed against President Donald Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, the lawsuit pertains to “Operation Diligent Valor,” which involved sending more than 100 federal law enforcement officers to Portland in an attempt to suppress Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

Andre Miller, a 36-year-old facilities and warehouse manager from Portland, said federal officers shot him in the head with a tear gas canister during a protest on July 22.

“The protests in Portland gave me a way to voice my concerns as a Black Oregonian, and were a place where my family found community,” Miller said in a statement. “The federal agents that came to Portland called us 'thugs,' and attacked protesters night after night. But they won’t stop us from working to make our city and state better for Black people.”

The complaint alleges that federal officers, who were “heavily armed and clad in military-type camouflage or dark uniforms,” used excessive force, facilitated illegal detentions of protesters, and violated protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.

According to the complaint, federal agents used brutal tactics against protesters, “including shooting them in the head and body with less lethal impact munitions and pepper balls, spraying them directly in the face with pepper spray, shoving them to the ground, hitting and beating them with batons, firing massive clouds of tear gas at them, and, in some instances, arresting and detaining them without any lawful basis.”

During Operation Diligent Valor, tens of thousands of federal agents were sent to cities, including Portland, Chicago, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to guard government buildings and Confederate statues. As a result, officers in plain clothes and unmarked vans drove through cities like Portland and arrested and detained demonstrators without probable cause, according to protesters.

James McNulty, a 42-year-old educational department manager at a university hospital in Portland, said he was shot with rubber bullets and pepper balls without warning as he tried to escape tear gas. Photographs included in the complaint show that the rubber bullets "pieced his skin, fat layer, and at least one layer of muscle."

"President Trump, Chad Wolf and this administration have attempted to silence a movement that dares to realize the American dream of a nation where everyone, not just white people, can live free,” Kelly Simon, interim legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement. “This lawsuit seeks to hold the Trump administration accountable for its dangerous and profoundly unconstitutional actions in Portland. Black lives matter.”

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