(The Center Square) — A federal lawsuit filed by the cities of Portland, Ore. and Oakland, Calif. allege the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assumed unlawful duties in policing local protests this summer.
Protests against police brutality began around June in cities around the nation, including Portland, following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police.
Federal agents from the DHS were deployed to cities around the country under President Trump’s executive order in June protecting federal monuments amid the ensuing civil unrest.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolfe are named as defendants in the 48-page lawsuit filed on Wednesday in a California federal court.
By sending federal agents to police protests, the cities argued, the federal government sought to “unilaterally step in or replace local law enforcement departments that do not subscribe to the President’s view of domestic ‘law and order.’”
The lawsuit alleges that Barr and Wolfe “did not seek Portland’s consent” in sending federal agents to police Portland’s federal courthouse back in July. It adds that “defendants did not act at the direction of PPB incident command that had been policing nightly protests for over a month.”
“Yet again, dangerous politicians and fringe special interest groups have ginned up a meritless lawsuit,” a DHS spokesperson said. “Department of Homeland Security have acted entirely lawfully.”
The DOJ declined to comment on the litigation.
Portland and Oakland city attorneys asked a federal judge to ban any further deployments to the cities and to declare previous deployments unconstitutional.
The federal deputation of Portland police officers, they argued, demonstrates that the federal government is effectively “commandeering” local law enforcement despite requests from local leaders such as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to rescind such deputization.
“The practice of continued, non-consensual deputation of Portland’s law enforcement officers unconstitutionally infringes on Portland’s authority to end the deputation and unconstitutionally compels local officers to continue to serve as federal law enforcement officials, whether in name or in scope of authority,” the lawsuit reads.
The two cities made the claim that Trump’s executive order was politically motivated and disproportionately targeted “progressive United States cities” citing his criticism of Democratic governors’ COVID-19 health restrictions and stay-at-home orders this year.