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The ACLU is representing protesters who allege that Homeland Security's 'Operation Diligent Valor' was illegally authorized and exceeded federal authority.

ACLU PHOTO: DOUG BROWN - Chris David, now known by the nickname Captain Portland, confronts federal officers outside the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse during a downtown protest.  Protesters who were allegedly "abducted, beaten and gassed" by federal agents during the Portland protests sued President Donald Trump and other federal officials and agencies in federal court Wednesday, Aug. 26, for violating the U.S. Constitution and federal law, according to a American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon press release.

"Protesting is supposed to be the bedrock of democracy, but when protests are about Black lives, it is shut down," said Shanice Clarke, from Black Millennial Movement, a plaintiff in the suit. "The very idea that Black people deserve humanity and decency is something that police and federal law enforcement agencies are so opposed to, they've employed nearly lethal responses."COURTESY PHOTO: ACLU OF OREGON - Plaintiff Andre Miller was hospitalized after allegely being shot in the head with a tear gas canister by federal officers on July 22, 2020.

The allegations stem from the Department of Homeland Security deployment "Operation Diligent Valor." The protesters allege that the actions taken during Operation Valor violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly and Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure.

Additionally, they allege that the operation exceeded its authority because it was authorized by Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who was improperly appointed to the role in November 2019, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released Aug. 14. Wolf is also named in the suit.

Further, they allege that even if the operation had been legally authorized, it exceeded its authority under federal law, which allows federal agencies to protect their property and building and adjacent areas. But they allege the law does not "allow making warrantless arrests or taking actions such as detaining individuals or suppressing protests in locations that are away from, or not required to protect, federal property."

The plaintiffs include Mark Pettibone, whom Oregon Public Broadcasting reported was abducted by federal officers in an unmarked vehicle, and Navy veteran Chris David, who was filmed being beaten and tear-gassed at a protest.

"I still haven't fully come to terms with what it means that I was kidnapped by my government," Pettibone said. "People need to know what happened to me and the government needs to be held accountable so that what happened to me doesn't happen to someone else."

"I swore an oath to defend the Constitution," David said. "If unchecked, the flagrant violations of our civil liberties in Portland will undermine our freedoms all across the country."COURTESY PHOTO: ACLU OF OREGON - Plaintiff James McNulty was allegely shot in in the back by federal officers at a Portland protest on July 21, 2020.

Eight other people are represented in the lawsuit, as well as the organizations Black Millennial Movement and Rose City Justice. The ACLU of Oregon and Stoel Rives LLP are representing the protesters.

In addition to Trump and Wolf, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service are named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as Gabriel Russell, Regional Director of the Homeland Security Federal Protective Service and 200 unnamed federal agents.

This is the third lawsuit the ACLU of Oregon has filed against federal agencies stemming from the Portland protests. The organization previously sued on behalf of protest medics, journalists and legal observers. ACLU PHOTO: DOUG BROWN - Chris David poses for a recent photograph.

Gina Scalpone
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