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Conflict Between Federal Officers, Protesters In Portland Continue

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Federal law enforcement officers last night in Portland, Ore., moved against protesters once again. They used tear gas and made arrests, even as state authorities began a court action against federal forces there. All of this comes less than a day after Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that federal agents in unmarked vehicles have been detaining peaceful protesters with little explanation or indication of which agency they belong to or why people are being taken into custody. Yesterday on All Things Considered, Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli confirmed federal officers were doing that and would keep doing so. Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Broadcasting joins us. Conrad, thanks for being with us.

CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: You and your colleagues have been doing a very fine job. Tell us what happened there overnight.

WILSON: Well, there were hundreds of protesters in downtown Portland last night outside the Justice Center and the federal courthouse. It's a larger crowd than we've seen in the past several days. Videos show law enforcement using a lot of tear gas and, at one point, rushing the crowd as it fled. At this point, it's unclear just how many protesters were arrested.

SIMON: The attorney general of Oregon is taking the federal agencies to court. What's her case? What's her argument?

WILSON: That's right. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says she's going to name the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshal Service and the Federal Protective Service in a lawsuit. State attorneys are going to ask a judge to issue a temporary restraining order - and I'm quoting from the Justice Department's release here - "that would immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians." The Oregon Department of Justice also plans to announce a criminal investigation into the case of a peaceful demonstrator who was shot in the head with a crowd control device. It's something like a rubber bullet. That happened last Saturday night.

SIMON: And, Conrad, I know the mayor and other officials there have expressed their concern, have expressed their anger and outrage, I think it's fair to say. What do federal agents say according to the people that they've - you know, that they've detained, the unmarked vehicles? What's behind all this?

WILSON: Well, I mean, you raise a good point, I mean, that - in that the mayor, the city commissioners, Oregon's congressional delegation, you know, Oregon Governor Kate Brown - they all want these federal officers to leave. The governor has said that the federal officers are escalating the situation, not de-escalating it. They're, of course, officers - you know, they were sent here to Portland earlier this month as part of an executive order signed by President Trump. The U.S. attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, has also called for an investigation into the arrests of protests made by federal law enforcement. There's no questions about whether there was probable cause for those arrests.

SIMON: Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Broadcasting, thank you so much for being with us.

WILSON: You're welcome. Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.