Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Committee
Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and 13 other Democratic Senators today
sent a letter calling on the Justice Department and Department of Homeland
Security to remove federal law enforcement personnel from Portland, Oregon—as
has been requested by the governor and mayor—and provide information on what
forces have been deployed, where and under what authorities.
officials have claimed that federal forces are necessary to protect federal
property in Portland. But this does not justify the use of excessive force or
the detention of protestors without probable cause by agents who refuse to
identify themselves. These tactics are not consistent with our Constitution or
the rule of law. We therefore demand that you remove these forces from
Portland, as has been requested by state and local officials,” the Senators wrote.
“We also urge you
to coordinate closely in advance with state and local officials and honor their
requests and denials related to deployment of DHS, DOJ or other federal law
enforcement personnel in their jurisdictions.”
Joining Schumer and Feinstein in sending the letter was Senate
Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI), Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI),
Senate Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman
Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senate Committee on Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and
Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Committee on
Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Martin
Heinrich (D-NM), Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Vice Chair Tom Udall
(D-NM), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown
(D-OH), and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
A copy of the letter can be found here
July 29, 2020
The Honorable William
U.S. Department of
Washington, DC 20530
The Honorable Chad F.
U.S. Department of
3801 Nebraska Avenue,
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Attorney General
Barr and Acting Secretary Wolf:
On June 5, 2020, several Senators requested information about the
federal response to protests across the nation in the wake of the police
killing of George Floyd. We have yet to receive a response to that request.
There are now disturbing reports that unidentified federal agents
are using excessive force against protesters and members of the press in
Portland, Oregon. First-hand accounts, corroborated by video evidence, also
indicate that peaceful protesters have been detained without cause or
explanation. Agents shot one man in the head with a “less-lethal” weapon,
fracturing his skull and requiring facial reconstructive surgery. A reporter
who identified himself as a member of the press alleges he was shot ten times
in the back while fleeing from federal agents, and another reporter claims he
witnessed federal agents chase after legal observers from the National Lawyers
Guild with “truncheons swinging.” Additionally, media reports indicate that DHS
may be collecting information on and monitoring Americans it believes pose a
threat to statues or monuments—even those not on federal property or owned by
the federal government.
The governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland have repeatedly
asked you to withdraw federal forces in light of these tactics, yet you insist
on keeping them there, inflaming tensions in the city. Now, the President is
apparently deploying a separate task force coordinated by the Department of
Justice to other American cities without a clear objective or the prior
permission of these cities’ elected leaders. For example, last week, Acting
Secretary Wolf gave repeated assurances to Washington state elected leaders
that no additional DHS personnel would be sent to Washington state, and then,
on that very same day, a plane with DHS personnel landed near Seattle.
Senators previously asked you to provide, for each of your
agencies, an accounting of the forces you have deployed against peaceful
protests. Specifically, you were asked:
forces have DOJ and DHS deployed?
have DOJ and DHS deployed those forces?
additional or extraordinary authorities have DOJ and DHS given these forces?
are DOJ and DHS ensuring that these forces are respecting protesters’ legal
In addition to providing this information, please also explain the
authorities, procedures, and rules governing the use of force, identification
of personnel, and detention and questioning of civilians by your personnel; the
training provided to your personnel on these authorities, procedures, and
rules; and what you are doing to ensure your personnel’s compliance in the
field, including how violators will be held accountable. In particular, we
would like to understand what intelligence personnel are being deployed and
what domestic collection, analysis, and dissemination activities they are
undertaking, especially with respect to non-federal crimes and activities that
do not threaten violence against persons or federal property. Finally, please
explain any plans for current or future deployments of federal personnel to
other cities, describing, for each city, the number of personnel contemplated,
their expected mission and duration of deployment, and what steps have been
taken to ensure these personnel support state and local law enforcement rather
than attempt to supplant them.
Administration officials have claimed that federal forces are
necessary to protect federal property in Portland. But this does not justify
the use of excessive force or the detention of protestors without probable
cause by agents who refuse to identify themselves. These tactics are not
consistent with our Constitution or the rule of law. We therefore demand that
you remove these forces from Portland, as has been requested by state and local
officials. We also urge you to coordinate closely in advance with state and
local officials and honor their requests and denials related to deployment of
DHS, DOJ or other federal law enforcement personnel in their jurisdictions.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.