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Oregon Lawmakers Call For New Curbs On Federal Officers Involved In Quelling Demonstrations

<p>Sen. Ron Wyden addressed constituents' questions at a town hall held at Tigard High School's Deb Fennell Auditorium in Tigard, Ore., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2020. Wyden spoke about topics ranging from health care to the conflicts with Iran.</p>
<p>Sen. Ron Wyden addressed constituents' questions at a town hall held at Tigard High School's Deb Fennell Auditorium in Tigard, Ore., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2020. Wyden spoke about topics ranging from health care to the conflicts with Iran.</p>

Following the outcry over federal police actions against Portland demonstrators, Oregon members of Congress are trying to curtail the activities of U.S. government law enforcement agencies at the local level.

The lawmakers want to require federal officers to identify their name and agency on their uniforms and restrict their operations to federal property and the nearby vicinity unless a mayor and governor request additional help. They also want federal agencies to report within 24 hours their deployment to a city and stop them from arresting anyone in violation of these rules.

Oregon’s two senators, Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, as well as Portland-area members of the U.S. House have accused the Trump administration of resorting to rogue policing actions against the nightly demonstrations around the federal courthouse and the local Justice Center.

"Some of the images just confound you," Merkley told OPB's All Things Considered. "You think you're looking at a dictatorship in Turkey or Russia, or Chinese troops in Hong Kong, not America. This is a completely outrageous violation of people's rights, and we've got to put an end to it." 

President Donald Trump has repeatedly defended the surge of federal officers in Portland, saying the city’s leadership has lost control to “anarchists and agitators.”

On Monday, Trump said he might send federal agents to other cities, and he specifically cited Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland.

Merkley is trying to include these new curbs on federal law enforcement in an annual defense authorization bill headed to the Senate floor. Merkley. Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, also plan to introduce stand-alone bills in both chambers, called the “Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act.”

Oregon legislative aides acknowledge the legislative actions are a long shot, in large part because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, holds tight control over any legislation in the Senate.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, this weekend joined Blumenauer in criticizing the federal deployments. And the Oregon lawmakers have been reaching out to Republicans, hoping to gain their support since many conservatives have long supported local control over federal interference.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, also co-sponsored the legislation.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting