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'Very Frightening:’ Opposition Grows to US Agents in Cities


Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control measures to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
'Very Frightening:’ Opposition Grows to US Agents in Cities
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The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is facing growing criticism for sending federal agents to Portland, Oregon to control violent protests.

Mass demonstrations across the country started in May after the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Trump, a Republican, says he plans to send federal agents to control protests in other Democratic-led cities. But the arrival of federal agents has not calmed the protests in Portland. Instead, crowd sizes have increased.

The Trump administration faces legal action from several cities and groups. The lawsuits question the administration’s right to use such policing powers in cities.

One case claims federal agents are violating protesters’ 10th Amendment rights by carrying out police activities that should be the responsibility of local and state governments. That case was brought by the Portland-based Western States Center, which helps organize and support the rights of communities of color and low-income people.

Oregon’s attorney general has also taken legal action, asking a judge to block federal agents’ actions. The state argued that agents have arrested people on the street with no probable cause. The arrests, the state says, have taken place far from a federal courthouse building in the city that has been a target of destruction.

There have also been reports of protesters in Portland being arrested and taken away in unmarked cars, without a clear reason.

“It is time for the Trump troops to go home and focus their attention on other activities,” Oregon’s Democratic Governor Kate Brown told American broadcaster MSNBC.

Federal officials, however, said state and local officials had not worked with them to stop the damage and violence against federal officers and the courthouse.

The acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, told reporters Tuesday, “At the end of the day, we have to protect the federal property and the law enforcement officers.”

Federal forces were deployed to Portland in early July. Tensions there have grown since their arrival. A protester was hospitalized this month with critical injuries after a U.S. Marshals Service officer struck him in the head with a round of non-deadly ammunition.

Anger increased again over the weekend after video surfaced of a federal agent hitting a U.S. Navy veteran repeatedly with a baton while another agent sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.

Crowds in Portland have recently numbered fewer than 100 people. But they grew to more than 1,000 over the weekend.

A Black Lives Matter protester carries an American flag as teargas fills the air on July 21, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
A Black Lives Matter protester carries an American flag as teargas fills the air on July 21, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.


Among the protesters was Mardy Widman. For weeks, she has watched demonstrations against racial injustice happen in her hometown. But she stayed away because, at the age of 79, she feared getting the coronavirus.

When Trump sent federal officers to Portland, that changed. Wearing a face covering, Widman took to the street Monday with other locals.

“It’s like a dictatorship,” said Widman, a grandmother of five. She held a sign that read: “Grammy says: Please feds, leave Portland.”

Wolf defended the federal action, saying the Department of Homeland Security has the right to protect government property and detain people suspected of threatening agents or damaging such property.

Portland police have said some protesters lit fires in the street and tried several times to also set them at the front of the courthouse.

Wolf said protesters have attacked agents with fireworks, bottles and other weapons and “yet the city of Portland takes little to no action.” He said federal agencies have made 43 arrests since the July 4 holiday. But he disputed reports that unidentified agents are making the arrests. He said they have the word “police” on their clothes.

The Trump administration is reportedly also planning to send about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents to Chicago, Illinois, to help local law enforcement deal with a rise in crime. That information came from an official with direct knowledge of the plans, the Associated Press reported. The official did not want to be named because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the plan.

The Democratic leaders of Illinois and Chicago have criticized the planned federal deployment there. On Tuesday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker called the idea a “wrongheaded move.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership. But we do not welcome dictatorship.”

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

lawsuit - n. a process by which a court of law makes a decision to end a disagreement between people or organizations

low-income - adj. of or relating to earning a smaller amount of money than the average

attorney general - n. the chief lawyer of a country or state who represents the government in legal matters

focus - v. to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific — + on

baton - n. a heavy stick that is carried by police officers and is used as a weapon

spray - v. to put a stream of small drops of liquid on (someone or something)

grandmother - n. the mother of your father or mother

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