Protesters in Portland, Ore. on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the use of tear gas and other aggressive tactics employed by federal agents deployed to quell the nightly violence across the city.
The nonprofit Protect Democracy filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of five women as well as two groups, Don’t Shoot Portland and Wall of Moms, a group of mothers who wear yellow and attempt to stand between demonstrators and police. The protesters claim that they demonstrated peacefully but were met with federal agents who sprayed tear gas, shot rubber bullets, and threw flash-bang grenades into the crowd as well as pepper-sprayed and assaulted them during demonstrations outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.
The plaintiffs claim that federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Protective Service, violated their First Amendment rights as well as their right to free assembly and due process.
The Justice Department has presented a contrary narrative, saying that they were protecting the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, which has been “a nightly target of vandalism during evening protests and riots, sustaining extensive damage.”
Protests and riots against racism and police brutality have been nearly constant in Portland since the police custody death of George Floyd in May. While some protests have been peaceful, demonstrators who remain on the streets after dark have engaged in property destruction, throwing rocks at police, marking buildings with graffiti, and setting fires.
Federal authorities arrested 18 people last week on a slew of charges related to the demonstrations outside the courthouse, including assaulting a federal officer, willfully damaging government property, and arson.
The lawsuit comes after Oregon’s attorney general Ellen Rosenblum launched an unsuccessful lawsuit attempting to restrict federal agents’ ability to arrest Oregon residents. A federal judge in Portland rejected the challenge Friday.