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Oregon lawmakers sue federal law enforcement over response to protests

July 21 (UPI) -- A group including two Oregon lawmakers sued four law enforcement agencies Tuesday over the deployment of militarized federal officers in response to Black Lives Matter protests in Portland.

The lawsuit filed by state Reps. Janelle Bynum and Karin Power, Portland lawyer Sare Eddie, the First Unitarian Church of Portland, and Western States Center, which assists social justice organizations, seeks an order restricting federal officers' actions to the federal courthouse and requiring that they identify themselves and have probable cause for arrests.

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The suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Marshals Service declares that states and their municipalities have the right to determine how to police their residents and the federal government cannot change those policies.

"While the federal government may protect its property and personnel, the federal government is constrained by the Constitution from policing the City of Portland broadly speaking, and there is no positive delegation of authority in any law that makes the federal government's recent forays into general policing in Portland either legal or constitutional," it states.

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It cites instances of federal officers placing protesters into vans, taking them to unknown locations and later releasing them without first obtaining arrest warrants.

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"These acts of violence perpetrated by federal law enforcement are designed to pass down a legacy of fear and further the interminable control of the movements of Black and Brown bodies since the days of American slavery," Bynum said in a statement. "I will not let my children, or any of our children, inherit paranoia and mistrust of the people we commission to protect us."

The suit follows similar lawsuits by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper has expressed concerns within the Trump administration about federal agents in cities such as Portland dressed in camouflage uniforms similar to those worn by U.S. troops, his spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said Tuesday.

"We saw this take place back in June where some law enforcement that wear uniforms that make them appear military in appearance," Hoffman said.

He added that Esper told administration officials that he would prefer a system "where people can tell the difference" and may look to raise the issue with Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.

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