By Chantal Da Silva* – Newsweek
President Donald Trump lashed out at protesters in Portland on Monday, branding them “sick and deranged Anarchists & Agitators” after they launched a lawsuit against his administration, accusing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of violating demonstrators’ rights.
In a tweet on Monday, Trump accused “the Fake News Media” of “trying to portray the Portland and Seattle ‘protesters’ as wonderful, sweet and innocent people just out for a little stroll.”
“Actually, they are sick and deranged Anarchists & Agitators who our great men & women of Law Enforcement easily control, but who…would destroy our American cities, and worse, if Sleepy Joe Biden, the puppet of the Left, ever won,” the president said.
“Markets would crash and cities would burn,” he claimed. “Our Country would suffer like never before.”
The president then claimed that under his administration, the U.S. would “beat the [coronavirus outbreak] soon, and go on to the Golden Age—better than ever before!”
As Trump promised his supporters a brighter future, however, protesters in Portland accused his administration of violating their rights in the present through the actions of federal officers deployed to Portland in response to unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In a lawsuit filed against the DHS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, protesters, including activist groups Don’t Shoot Portland and the Wall of Moms, accused the Trump administration of deploying federal officers to unlawfully “quash Plaintiffs’ speech and end their protests,” according to NPR.
Specifically, protesters have said the Trump administration has violated their constitutional rights to free speech, as well as their rights to freedom from unreasonable seizures and to due process.
Demonstrators “have been tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them,” the complaint states.
“They have been shot at over and over—with rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray, and a range of other projectiles fired at close range and with brutal effect. They have had flash-bang explosive devices detonated right in front of them,” it says. “They have been forced to speak and assemble in fear of not just bodily harm, but the possibility of sudden arrest without probable cause.”
With video showing ongoing violent clashes between federal officers and protesters in Portland, as well as instances of protesters being forced into unmarked vans by officers, activists have said they believe federal officers have been acting outside of the bounds of their law enforcement authority.
Their lawsuit further raises questions around whether Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has the authority to lead the deployment, given that he has not been officially confirmed as DHS chief by the Senate.
Wolf has repeatedly defended the deployment of federal officers in response to unrest, asserting that officers were deployed to Portland to protect federal property—specifically, a federal courthouse.
The acting DHS head has further accused protesters of being “violent,” with the DHS regularly releasing reports on “criminal violence” in Portland, including activists attacking officers with “hard projectiles”and “mortar style fireworks” and trying to tear down fencing erected outside the federal courthouse with “ropes, saws, hammers, bolt cutters, and power tools.” The DHS has also accused demonstrators of shooting potentially-blinding lasers into officers’ eyes.
In a press release published on Monday, the DHS said that within the 24-hour period before, federal officers had conducted a total of 10 arrests, with nine arrested for “assault of a federal officer” and one arrested for “violating a no-fly zone with a drone.”
Newsweek has contacted the DHS and White House for further comment. 7/28/20
*Chantal Da Silva is Chief Correspondent at Newsweek, with a focus on immigration and human rights. She is a Canadian-British journalist whose work has also been featured by The Independent, The i Newspaper, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and elsewhere. Chantal has an MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario