US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



Federal officers violate protestors’ human rights in Portland

Jul 28, 2020

The US Human Rights Network has been watching the situation in Portland, Oregon over the last week and has witnessed a proliferation of disturbing videos and accounts from protestors whose human rights have been clearly violated. Federal officers including US Marshals, ICE special response teams, and CBP tactical units have descended onto the streets of Portland despite a lack of consent from local officials and requests from local officials for the federal agents to leave the city. These agents lack the necessary training to peacefully and safely disperse or deescalate mass demonstrations, and are instead responding to protestors with disproportionate force including the use of pepper balls, flash bangs, batons, endless tear gassing, and other “less-lethal” weapons. These weapons are being used against protestors, medics, and press officers, and are oftentimes being used without provocation or threat.[1]

These officers are not displaying their federal identification badges or cards, they have refused to identify themselves when asked, and they are detaining protestors in unmarked vehicles without giving any information or justification. Many protestors who have been detained were not on federal property at the time of their snatching, nor were they witnessed damaging federal property.[2] These acts are a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 9, which states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Furthermore, they are a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article 9(2); “Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” In addition, we believe that the treatment of protestors is a violation of UDHR Article 5 and ICCPR Article 7, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The situation in Portland is of grave concern for the human rights of people across the country, especially in cities where Mr. Trump has threatened to deploy federal officers. This extreme federal overreach includes the effective occupation of US cities, the kidnapping of innocent protestors, and an attack on human rights and democracy as a whole. We believe this occupation is a political ploy intended to take attention away from the failures of the federal government to address the coronavirus pandemic and to address ongoing systemic racism and police brutality against Black people in the United States. We believe the federal government is using these rapid deployment teams of federal officers to provoke confrontations with protestors and create situations which the government will use to legitimize further protest suppression and human rights violations.

While USHRN stands firmly against the ongoing actions of the federal government and federal officers in Portland and other cities in recent days, and is gravely concerned for the escalating human rights crisis on the streets, we also continue to uplift the issue of systemic racism and police brutality which sparked these protests after the murder of George Floyd, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which is ravaging the United States and disproportionately taking the lives of Indigenous Peoples, Black people, and Latinx people. While the Trump administration attempts to deflect attention away from these issues by fueling unrest in Portland and committing egregious human rights violations against protestors, we refuse to put the issues of systemic racism, police brutality, and the coronavirus pandemic to the side.

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[1] Mike Baker, Thomas Fuller and Sergio Olmos, Federal Agents Push Into Portland Streets, Stretching Limits of Their Authority. July 25, 2020. New York Times. 

[2] Marjorie Cohn on Portland Secret Police. July 24, 2020. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.