Portland : When several men sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches, his first instinct was to run.
He didn’t know if the men were police or far-right activists in Portland, Ore, who frequently sell military uniforms and threaten left-leaning demonstrators. The resident of 29 years said he made it about half a block before he knew there would be no escape.
He then sunk back to his knees, hands in the rain.
“I was scared,” Pettibone told The Post. “It seemed to be out of horror / sci-fi, like a novel by Philip K. Dick. It was like being preyed on.”
He was detained and tried. One man asked if he had any guns; he didn’t. They took him to the federal court, and held him in a holding cell. Eventually two officers came back to read his Miranda rights and ask if he would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not.
And just as quickly as they grabbed him off the street, he was let go by people.
Pettibone said he really doesn’t know who charged him or whether what happened to him counts as an arrest in law. He told The Post that the federal officers who snatched him off the street as he walked home from a peaceful protest didn’t tell him why he had been detained or gave him any record of an arrest. So far as he learns, no criminal charges have been brought against him.
His arrest, first recorded by Oregon Public Broadcasting, and videos of similar behavior by federal officials in unmarked cars driving around Portland have raised alarm bells for many. Legal scholars challenged whether the detentions pass the test of the constitution.
“Orin Kerr, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley Law School, told The Post,” Arrests require probable cause that a federal offense has been committed, that is, clear evidence showing that the person possibly committed a federal offense or a reasonable probability that the individual committed a federal offense. “If the agents are grabbing people because they may have been involved in protests, that’s not probable cause.”
United States Federal Authorities When part of President Trump ‘s planned firm response to ongoing demonstrations, the Marshals Service and Homeland Security Department raided Portland’s streets. Community officials expressed outrage at reports of Pettibone ‘s arrest and repeated demands for feds to resign, which have grown stronger after officers of the Marshals Service seriously wounded a nonviolent protester on Saturday.
“One of Donald Trump’s secret police shot a peaceful protester in Portland in the back,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote in a tweet on Thursday that also called out acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf. “Trump and Chad Wolf are now arming the DHS as their own invading force to incite violence in my hometown ‘s streets because they think it’s playing well with right wing media.”
Civil rights activists indicated that the Trump administration is challenging its executive boundaries. “I think Portland is test case,” Zakir Khan, a spokesperson for the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Post. “They want to see what they can get away with before launching into other parts of the country.”
In a statement shared with The Post, Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, called the latest detentions “flat-out unconstitutional.”
“Usually when we see people violently catch someone off the street in unmarked cars we call it kidnapping,” Carson said. “Protesters in Portland were shot in the back, driven away in unmarked cars and gassed repeatedly by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents. We ‘re not going to rest until they’re gone.”
Nightly protests which seized downtown streets of Portland after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis late May. Portland police have clashed for more than six weeks with left-leaning protesters speaking out against racism and police brutality. Tear gas has choked hundreds in the city, caught in the crossfire by protesters and other residents alike. On Mark O. Hatfield Federal Court House and Multnomah County Justice Center, which acts as the local jail and police headquarters, demonstrators have spray-painted anti-cop messages.
Tensions escalated after Trump sent federal officers into the area, allegedly to quell crime. The feds have routinely used tear gas to scuttle demonstrations, following a new state law prohibiting local police from using the chemical irritant except to quash disturbances. On Saturday, federal agents shot a man in the chest, splitting his skull with a less-than-lethal munition. Local officials have asked the president, from the mayor to the governor, to get the federal officers out of town.
“I am proud to be among the loud chorus of elected officials calling for federal troops to go home in the streets of Portland,” said Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in a statement shared on Sunday with The Post. “Their presence here has exacerbated tensions and put in greater danger innumerable Portlanders exercising their rights to the First Amendment.”
Pettibone claims he was merely exercising his right to freedom of expression when he was detained on Wednesday. After a fairly quiet demonstration in a nearby park, he and a friend got into a car to drive home. He said he didn’t do anything that night to instigate police, or at any of the other protests he ‘d attended in the last six weeks.
“I have a very deep moral belief that I am not going to engage in any criminal crime,” he said to The Post. “I keep it mellow and try to record violence on the part of the police and try to demonstrate solidarity.”
DHS did not respond immediately to a request for comment Thursday night, nor did Oregon Public Broadcasting respond to questions. The Marshals Service assured the radio station that Pettibone had not been detained by its officers and that the department still maintains track of its arrests.
Trump has praised tough tactics by Portland officers and the acting Homeland Security Secretary has promised to retain federal forces in Portland before local officials “publicly condemn what the militant anarchists are doing.”
“We did a fantastic job at Portland,” Trump said Monday at a news conference. “It was completely out of reach, so they went in, so I think we’ve got a lot of people in jail right now. We’ve quieted it very much, so if it starts again, we’ll quieter it again very quickly.
Yet late Thursday, the scene on the streets of Portland represented a different reality.
Yet again protesters lined downtown streets, defiantly pushing fencing intended to hold the crowd away from the Multnomah County Justice Center. And federal officers also fired tear gas into the demonstration once more.
As local and federal police have responded with increasing force to demonstrators, the protests have grown more unwieldy and resolute. Neither side is ready to concede.
“If you’re out on the street and you’ve been gassed with tears and see that there’s no excuse-the police will say there’s a riot only because they can use tear gas-it makes you want to go out there even more to see if there’s any kind of justice,” Pettibone told The Post.
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