Don’t Shoot Portland v. Wolf

  • November 15, 2020

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, against DHS and other federal agencies and their leaders. The lawsuit followed the Trump administration’s deployment of federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals Service to Portland, Oregon, on approximately July 4, 2020, purportedly to “protect federal property” in the midst of protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis. It soon became clear, however, that the federal agents had a broader mission and that their tactics exceeded permissible law enforcement. 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. 

Protect Democracy’s lawsuit made three claims:

First, federal law enforcement officers exceeded the limits of their authority.

Second, the Trump administration’s deployment of federal law enforcement to Portland violated protesters’ Fourth Amendment rights and constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

Third, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who was never confirmed by the Senate, was unlawfully serving in his role at the time, rendering his orders regarding the Portland deployment void.

Case Documents

Protect Democracy works to ensure accountability for abuses of power and violations of the rule of law, renew institutional guardrails to prevent abuses of power, and address longer-term structural and cultural challenges facing our democracy.

Related Content

Current United States Authoritarian Threat Index score: 2.1/5 Significant Threat

The Score Breakdown

  • Civil Liberties 2/5 • Significant Threat
  • Civil Violence 1.8/5 • Low Threat