Freedom of expression organisation ARTICLE 19 has likened President Trump’s decision to send federal troops to Portland to the anti-democratic tactics used by autocratic states.
Videos have been shared on social media that appear to show federal law enforcement agents in unmarked cars, dragging people off the streets and arresting them. Other footage shows agents assaulting a US Navy veteran who says he approached the police to ask them a question.
Executive Director Quinn McKew said:
“The sight of unmarked, unaccountable officers violently removing peaceful protesters at random from our streets into unmarked vehicles is deeply disturbing. Deploying federal troops is part of a wider tactic to sow divisions and create fear leading up to the November elections. It is a tactic we have seen in autocratic states, where state interventions often deliberately escalate violence in order to further clamp down on their citizens’ rights.
“Protest is at the heart of American identity, and a Constitutional right protected by the First Amendment. The President must respect American’s rights to protest without the threat of state violence.”
The Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, told CNN that the troops were “sharply escalating the situation, and their presence here is leading to more violence and more vandalism”, and urged them to leave. However, the President has said that he would send troops to other cities where anti-racist protests are also taking place.
Since anti-racist protests began in response to the murder of George Floyd, ARTICLE 19 has called on US authorities to protect protesters and the media, and respect the right to freedom of expression. All states must ensure :
- Protection of journalists and the media: threats to journalists and the media are unacceptable and run counter to international standards protecting freedom of expression. Attacks and intimidation by civil or military officers on journalists for reporting on the unrest should under no circumstances become the official response to the unrest.
- Protection of the right to protest: All forces charged with policing protests must meet the situation with lawful, necessary, proportionate and accountable responses. Alternative measures should be exhausted and deployed including engaging with and answering the protestors demands, many of which are known to be linked to deeply rooted racial discrimination.The US Government must not resort to the use of unmarked and unaccountable border officers or military force to police protests.
- The right to protest must be protected for all without discrimination: discriminatory use of police force, arrests and detentions against protestors must end and all discriminatory practices in the context of protests must be investigated.
- Right to anonymity must be protected and surveillance practices be curtailed: The risk of targeted discrimination against protestors and journalists is extremely high. The use of surveillance technologies to indiscriminately collect information on all those taking part in protests should be prohibited, and any information gathered subject to strict judicial review.