Portland justice groups hope their lawsuit will stop federal officers from violating their free speech rights
It has now been 61 consecutive days of protests in Portland, where the Wall of Moms made headlines earlier this month by forming human chains to stand between protestors and police who have repeatedly attacked them with flash bang explosives, tear gas, rubber bullets, and other weapons. Now, the Wall of Moms is part of a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department over the presence of federal officers in Portland who protesters say have only been escalating the violence.
The Wall of Moms and another justice organization called Don’t Shoot Portland filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday, alleging that the federal officers who were deployed to Portland under the guise of protecting a federal courthouse from looters and rioters have been “violating their free speech, using excessive force, overstepping their authority and acting under the command of someone who hasn’t been formally confirmed in his role.”
The lawsuit says that under “Operation Diligent Valor,” the federal government deployed at least 114 federal officers to Portland who have allegedly made unlawful arrests without probable cause, and used violence to “stamp out peaceful and constitutionally protected protests.”
“Rather than protect and defend Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, as they are bound to do by law and their Oaths of Office, Defendants have implemented an unlawful policy to quash Plaintiffs’ speech and end their protests,” the lawsuit reads.
Bev Barnum, the organizer of Wall of Moms, is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
“Wall of Moms is non-violent,” Barnum wrote on Facebook. “Portland is done being shot with rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bag rounds and beaten by federal officers and local law enforcement. Once you experience Trump’s tyranny for yourself, you will understand why we’re protecting the protestors. They have a right to demand necessary changes.”
The lawsuit says that several members of the Wall of Moms have been injured by federal agents.
“They have been tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them,” the lawsuit reads. “They have been shot at over and over—with rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray, and a range of other projectiles fired at close range and with brutal effect. They have had flash-bang explosive devices detonated right in front of them. They have been forced to speak and assemble in fear of not just bodily harm, but the possibility of sudden arrest without probable cause.”
The lawsuit comes just days after U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits the federal agents in Portland from targeting members of the press.