Weekly Roundup: Protesters & Police

You already know a federal judge somehow decided on Friday that the Trump administration has been within in its rights to send federal agents into Portland – so here’s what else is going on this week with the relationship between protesters and police.  

“You’re not helping, and not wanted” says Billboard to Homeland Security in Portland  

Southeast Portland native Owen Lingley, unhappy with how federal officers in Portland are treating local protesters, has set up a moving billboard to show them and the entire Department of Homeland Security how he feels.   

The messages are a direct response to federal agents who were deployed to the downtown Portland protests against racism and police violence and misconduct – the agents have been working with local Portland police, using force and tear gas in an attempt to subdue the unrest. Many feel, however, that agents are only exacerbating the situation.   

As reported by Oregon Live, Lingley said he wanted to find a way to “express some displeasure” about how Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, and President Donald Trump “are spending American tax dollars to shoot Americans with rubber bullets and tear gas them so they can get reelected.”  

The billboard says things such as:  

“Dear Dept of Homeland Security, you’re not helping, and not wanted. Take your goons and leave Portland.”  

“Director Chad Wolf, is trading citizen’s constitutional rights worth the belly rubs you get from your racist boss?”  

And there is one for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which has been providing federal agents with cars, “Is your government rental rate worth America knowing you are fine using your cars to abduct people?”   

Lingley paid for the truck himself and it drove around Portland on Thursday, July 23. A truck with the same artwork will drive between Homeland Security offices in Washington D.C. on Monday.   

Watchdogs Investigating Federal Agents’ Conduct in OR and D.C.  

The Justice Department and its counterpart, the Department of Homeland Security, announced on Thursday, July 23, that they opened investigations into the conduct of the federal agents responding to protests in Portland. This comes after abuse of power allegations against federal agents by members of Congress, Oregon officials and the public.   

The Justice Department plans to investigate use of force allegations in Portland as well as training and instruction given to federal agents who responded to protests at Lafayette Square near the White House this past month, while the Department of Homeland Security plans to investigate if federal agents improperly detained and transported protesters in Portland this past week.   

Authorities in both Portland and D.C. have been vocal about federal agents worsening tension in the protests going on in their respective cities. The decision to send them to American cities is part of a political tactic enforced by Trump, who is desperate for a new reelection strategy after the coronavirus essentially capsized the economy, which was the basis of his original campaign plan and a sound indicator of a president’s likeliness to win a second term.   

Portland Lawyer Has Solution for Police Hiding Their Names  

A new Portland police policy originally reported by The Oregonian allows officers to identify themselves with internal city personnel numbers taped to their uniforms or helmets instead of name tags.   

This policy has been encouraged by city officials who say it is necessary to protect police who could be targeted by activists, who they claim have found officers’ addresses and other personal information online and used them as a form of revenge in the past. The ACLU and other watchdog groups argue that the policy actually hurts activists because it gives police anonymity that may encourage bad behavior.   

As reported by Willamette Week, Portland lawyer Alan Kessler created a plan for protesters to more easily identify officers who commit alleged misconduct during protests. He began this plan by trying to use Oregon’s public records law to match badge numbers to employee names, but he was ultimately rejected by the city because Kessler could not provide the officers’ names.   

Though the public records law states that any person has the right to inspect “any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the public’s business,” lobbyists have muddled the law with exemptions, making it more difficult to access such information.   

The Portland City Attorney’s Office reassured Kessler in response that they will investigate misconduct without officer names, but Kessler, not appeased, appealed the denial of his request to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office on July 9. Kessler is continuing to argue for more transparency from Portland police, claiming it is necessary in alleviating violence between officers and protesters.   

By Cara Nixon