Senators Try to Restrain Trump's 'Secret Police' as President Threatens Democrat-Run Cities

As President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to expand the presence of federal law enforcement as seen in Portland to cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, Democratic senators in Oregon sought to put an end to his administration's "paramilitary occupations" with new legislation.

Dubbing the new measure the "Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America's Streets Act," Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden led the effort to stop the Trump administration from "deploying federal forces as a shadowy paramilitary against Americans."

The measure was introduced as a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is under debate.

The new legislation came as the Trump administration continues to face blowback over the deployment of federal law enforcement officers to Portland, where videos and images have emerged of unidentifiable agents appearing to use excessive force against protesters and forcing demonstrators into unmarked cars.

In one case, a demonstrator was shot in the head with impact munition, leaving him seriously injured.

The deployment of federal officers to Portland came earlier this month amid widespread protests in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Both city and state officials have repeatedly demanded that the government pull its officers out of the city, but those calls have fallen on deaf ears, with Trump vowing to maintain a federal presence in Portland, while also threatening to send federal agents to other Democrat-led cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia.

"The police are afraid to do anything," Trump said, speaking with reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. "They're restricted from doing anything. They can't do anything."

Asserting that protesters and anarchists had gotten "out of control," Trump said: "I'm going to do something, that I can tell you. We're not going to let New York, Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these—Oakland is a mess. We're not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats."

If passed, the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America's Streets Act would not stop the Trump administration from deploying federal officers, but it would put an end to concerning tactics used by agents.

Under the act, federal officers would be required to wear identification on their uniforms and they would be barred from using unmarked vehicles in arrests.

The legislation also aims to limit federal agents' crowd control activities to protecting federal property.

It would further require the Trump administration to disclose the details of each deployment within a 24-hour time frame, with information on the number of personnel deployed and the purpose of the deployment.

Any arrests made in violation of the above rules would be deemed unlawful under the new act.

In a statement published online, Merkley decried the "unconscionable" tactics being used by federal authorities in Portland.

"What we have seen in the last 10 days in Portland has been horrific and unconscionable," Merkley said. "Federal forces have shot an unarmed protester in the head with impact munitions, and paramilitary forces in camouflage have been grabbing people off the streets and putting them into unmarked vans."

"These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not a democratic republic," Merkley said. "This gross violation of Americans' civil rights must end immediately."

Wyden further condemned the Trump administration's actions, writing in a statement: "Donald Trump's occupying army continues to trample on the constitutional rights of Oregonians and escalate violence against peaceful protesters."

"If Congress doesn't step in, these authoritarian tactics won't stop in my hometown," the senator warned. "If it can happen in Portland, it can happen anywhere."

"We cannot allow secret police to pull protesters off the street into unmarked cars and detain them without explanation," Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who joined in introducing the new legislation, said in a tweet.

In addition to Merkley, Wyden, and Murphy, the NDAA amendment was cosponsored by Sens. "Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO)," according to Wyden's office.

Feds Portland
Federal officers use tear gas and other crowd dispersal munitions on protesters outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Mason Trinca/Getty