WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. civil liberties advocates on Tuesday asked a federal court in Portland, Oregon, to hold federal agents in contempt for violating a temporary court order barring attacks on journalists and legal observers monitoring protests in the city.
The filing by the American Civil Liberties Union came during a wave of protests against police violence and racism in Portland in which federal agents have clashed with protesters who have lit fires and thrown objects at the federal courthouse.
The ACLU Foundation of Oregon on July 23 obtained an order from the U.S. District Court in Portland barring attacks on journalists and observers covering the demonstrations.
On Tuesday, the ACLU, acting on behalf of the alternative Portland Mercury newspaper and ten individual plaintiffs including journalists and legal activists, said federal law enforcement officers in Portland violated the terms of that restraining order.
“These violations are not inadvertent,” lawyers for the ACLU argued.
“They are intentional acts by a lawless president, who has sent his paramilitary forces to shoot up the streets of Portland, choke downtown in a haze of toxic chemical fumes, and generate reelection soundbites,” the filing said, referring to President Donald Trump, who ordered the deployment.
The ACLU said that videos, photographs and witness accounts showed that federal officers shot three people clearly identified as legal observers in the head, neck and chest with non-lethal rounds such as beanbags or rubber bullets.
The ACLU said government agents also “purposefully” tear-gassed and dispersed journalists in violation of the court order.
The ACLU asked the court to order that federal officers identified as attackers be named, ordered to appear in court and banned from participating in any future armed operations in Oregon.
The Department of Homeland Security had no immediate comment. U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday defended the actions of federal agents in Portland, saying they were protecting the courthouse.
(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Sonya Hepinstall)