Updated Jul 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi accuses Trump admin of "violent tactics" against Portland protesters

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, July 16
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Pool

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) condemned in a joint statement Saturday the Trump Administration for what they called "egregious abuses of power" against protesters in Portland, Oregon.

Why it matters: Their claims that the Trump administration has used "violent tactics" comes amid reports of Department of Homeland Security officers in unmarked vehicles detaining the protesters without explanation.

"We live in a democracy, not a banana republic. We will not tolerate the use of Americans as props in President Trump’s political games."
— Pelosi and Blumenauer's statement

What they're saying: Pelosi and Blumenauer said that as the nation mourns civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday, the Portland demonstrations were a good reminder of "the immense power of peaceful protest in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality."

  • "Yet time and time again, the Trump Administration shows its lack of respect for the dignity and First Amendment rights of all Americans," the statement continued, pointing to peaceful protesters being forcibly cleared in Washington, D.C. last month.
  • "Now, videos show them kidnapping [protesters] in unmarked cars in Portland — all with the goal of inflaming tensions for their own gain," they added. "While Portland is the President’s current target, any city could be next."
  • After the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon called for an inspector general to investigate the Department of Homeland Security officers' actions, Pelosi tweeted Friday, "Trump & his stormtroopers must be stopped."
"Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic. @DHSgov’s actions in Portland undermine its mission."
— Pelosi's tweet

The big picture: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Friday night that her office opened a criminal investigation into the events that surrounded one protester's injuries. She filed another suit in Federal District Court in pursuit of a restraining order, accusing federal agents of unlawful tactics.

  • The American Civil Liberties Union added the Department of Homeland Security and the Marshals Service as defendants in its ongoing lawsuit seeking to stop the Portland police from assaulting neutrals such as journalists and legal observers documenting law enforcement's violent response to protests.

Of note: Federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes associated with the demonstrations. Others have been arrested and released, according to NPR.

The other side: The Trump administration did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment, but Trump tweeted early on Sunday, "Oregon officials are running scared when it comes to Portland."

  • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf described Portland protesters in a statement Thursday as a "violent mob."
"Instead of addressing violent criminals in their communities, local and state leaders are instead focusing on placing blame on law enforcement and requesting fewer officers in their community. This failed response has only emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day."

Go deeper: In photos: Federal force prompts backlash from Portland protesters

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper