The union representing federal Immigration, Customs and Enforcement employees in Portland has asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler because of his handling of the summer's OccupyICE protests at the ICE office in Southwest Portland.
Union officials repeatedly accused Wheeler of political bias in allegedly issuing a hands-off directive to police that the union asserts led to unrestrained harassment and abuse of ICE employees. Wheeler could not immediately be reached for comment, but in the past has defended his stance as appropriate discretion to protect protesters' First Amendment rights.
In the Oct. 3 letter to Rosenblum, Sean Riddell, a lawyer for the National ICE Council, called for an investigation into possible official misconduct, a criminal statute reserved for when officials misuse their position. It cited several records indicating Wheeler's philosophical agreement with the protesters led to specific commands to police to not engage with the protesters even when complaints or reports were made.
"If a rank-and-file police officer was presented with an ongoing crime for 30 days and did not take appropriate action that officer would be placed on administrative leave and subject to an internal investigation," the letter said.
A similar letter went to Sessions, calling for a civil rights investigation.
The ICE union also asked that Wheeler give up oversight of the Portland Police Bureau during the investigation.
'Safety of ALL people in the city'
In all, nearly 60 police calls were associated with the protest, which lasted 38 days starting June 17. Of those, 16 led to police reports being written, according to the city.
During the protest, employees of a food cart reported being threatened. Reporters said they were being assaulted or threatened, neighbors complained of feeling unsafe, and ICE employees reported racist insults, according to assorted media coverage.
The union sent Wheeler a July 30 "cease and desist" letter that threatened a lawsuit and complained that its employees were exposed to threats, harassment and "terror and lawlessness." It then followed up with a demand for a change in policy and compensation for each affected ICE employee of $15,000.
In an Aug. 15 letter to the union, City Attorney Tracy Reeve indicated the city had no formal policy on responding only to immediate threats and that the city is committed to ICE employees' safety. "The city and the mayor are committed to the safety of ALL people in the city, including ICE Council members (as well as documented and undocumented immigrants). The city and the mayor are also committed to protecting property rights and the right of the public to peaceably assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights," Reeve wrote.
"The city (through its police chief and command staff and under the policy direction of the mayor) necessarily needs to exercise discretion in determining how to allocate law enforcement resources in the face of non-violent demonstrations, including non-violent civil disobedience."
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