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Bennet introduces bill to block Trump from deploying unidentified federal troops in U.S. cities

July 22, 2020, 10:31 am

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Wednesday signed onto a bill to block the Trump administration from using unidentified federal forces as a “shadowy paramilitary against Americans.” Here’s Bennet’s press release:

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined Oregon U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D) and Ron Wyden (D), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and a group of their U.S. Senate colleagues in announcing the introduction of the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act. The bill would block the Trump Administration from deploying federal forces as a shadowy paramilitary against Americans.

Sen. Michael Bennet.
Sen. Michael Bennet

This action comes after 10 days in which heavily armed, unmarked federal forces in unmarked vehicles have grabbed protesters off the street in Portland, Oregon. The federal forces deployed munitions and tear gas against protesters nightly over the weekend. The federal incursion inflamed conflict in Portland at a time when local leaders have been working to de-escalate friction between protesters and police. Elected leaders in Portland and Oregon have opposed involvement by federal law enforcement.

Bennet and his colleagues also introduced this legislation as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the Senate is currently debating.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to send unidentified federal agents into Portland to terrorize protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights only sows more fear and division,” said Bennet. “America is not a battlespace. This should not be happening in a healthy democracy, and this legislation aims to prevent our federal government — including the president — from using these tactics.”

“What we have seen in the last 10 days in Portland has been horrific and unconscionable,” said Merkley. “Federal forces have shot an unarmed protester in the head with impact munitions, and paramilitary forces in camouflage have been grabbing people off the streets and putting them into unmarked vans. These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not a democratic republic. This gross violation of Americans’ civil rights must end immediately.”

“Donald Trump’s occupying army continues to trample on the constitutional rights of Oregonians and escalate violence against peaceful protesters,” said Wyden. “If Congress doesn’t step in, these authoritarian tactics won’t stop in my hometown. If it can happen in Portland, it can happen anywhere.”

“Unidentified federal law enforcement are pulling protestors off the street into unmarked vans and detaining them without explanation. That’s the kind of behavior we expect from dictatorships, not the United States of America. Without identification there is no way to hold these officers accountable, and there is no way to know if they are really federal officers. We cannot allow an American secret police. I hope that Republicans will join us in recognizing the severity of this threat and include this legislation in the NDAA,” said Murphy.

Specifically, this legislation would:

  1. Require individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers and prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests.
  2. Limit federal agents’ crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor.
  3. Require disclosure on an agency website within 24 hours of deployments specifying the number of personnel and purposes of deployment.
  4. Make arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.

In addition to Bennet, Merkley, Wyden, and Murphy, this legislation and the Senate NDAA amendment are cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The full text of the Senate NDAA amendment is available HERE.

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