Don’t Shoot Portland v. Wolf

People Protesting

In July 2020, Protect Democracy, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and Perkins Coie LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Don’t Shoot Portland, an organization founded by Black Lives Matter activist Teressa Raiford; and protesters Demetria Hester, Danialle James, Bev Barnum, Sabrina Cerquera, and Lisa Kipersztok. The lawsuit contended that federal law enforcement officers exceeded the limits of their authority in Portland, Oregon, in response to protests that have persisted following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis.

Federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals Service were deployed in Portland on approximately July 4, 2020, purportedly to “protect federal property.” It soon became clear, however, that their mission was much broader and that their tactics went far beyond permissible law enforcement behavior. Video footage showed the officers gassing, beating, and kidnapping peaceful protesters while wearing no badges or name tags and driving unmarked vehicles. Furthermore, on July 22, 2020, President Trump announced plans to expand the administration’s authoritarian tactics in Portland to other U.S. cities.

The lawsuit alleged that the administration’s actions violated protesters’ Fourth Amendment rights as well as constituting viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The mobilization of federal agents against Black Lives Matter protesters stood in stark contrast to the administration’s lack of response to anti-COVID quarantine protesters who stormed government buildings in other states. Notably, President Trump tweeted his support of anti-quarantine protesters while speaking out against the Black Lives Matter movement.

The lawsuit also claimed that DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who was never confirmed by the Senate, unlawfully served in his role, making his orders regarding the Portland deployment void.

Two days after the plaintiffs informed the Department of Justice that they would be filing an emergency temporary restraining order, the Trump administration agreed to withdraw its “surge” of federal troops.

Protect Democracy will continue to intervene any time the federal government oversteps its authority, including by expanding this unlawful deployment of federal agents to additional U.S. cities.

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