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DOJ Inspector General Probes DHS Detentions in Portland and Trump’s Lafayette Square Photo Op

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael E. Horowitz is launching an investigation into federal use of force against protesters and “civil unrest” in Portland, Oregon.

A Thursday press release notes that the DOJ watchdog is beginning work on the probe in response to Congressional requests and a referral from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon — as well as from “complaints” directly received by Horowitz’s office.

The primary focus of that investigation will center on “use of force allegations involving DOJ law enforcement personnel in Portland, Oregon in July 2020” and will be coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Secondarily, the probe will consider the earlier actions of federal law enforcement in both Portland and Washington, D.C.  (The first probe into what occurred in Portland focuses on July; the second focuses on the months leading up to July in both Portland and D.C.)

“DOJ OIG is initiating a review to examine the DOJ’s and its law enforcement components’ roles and responsibilities in responding to protest activity and civil unrest in Washington, DC, and in Portland, Oregon over the prior two months,” the press release notes. “The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force.”

The secondary request is being conducted “in response to requests from Members of Congress and members of the public.”

US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days.

Special attention will be given to the infamous protester-clearing photo opportunity for President Donald Trump:

With regard to events in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, the DOJ OIG will coordinate our review with the Department of Interior OIG, which recently announced its review of those events. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.

DHS agents—specifically, members of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) acting under DHS authority—have brought national attention to the Pacific Northwest in recent days by controversially detaining protesters and whisking them away in unmarked vans.

Those detentions have been conducted by unidentified government agents wearing camouflaged military fatigues, and some have occurred more or less wordlessly. Critics of several ideologies have questioned the legality of the practice.

Two DHS officials, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Deputy Director of the Federal Protective Service Richard Kris Cline, have defended the tactics through Constitutionally questionable articulations of law. Harvard Law Professor Andrew Crespo said the actions were, in real terms, directly in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

[image via Mason Trinca/Getty Images]

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