Activists engaged in the still ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody now say federal police are snatching their fellow protesters using unmarked vehicles as President Donald Trump mobilizes law enforcement in Portland, Oregon.
One protester, speaking to The Washington Post, says he saw camouflaged men grab a black-clad individual off the street and place him into an unmarked, grey SUV, and that the group was unsure whether the men were police or “far right” extremists.
Federal police say the man was arrested for damage against federal property and attacking federal agents, according to the Post.
A video was posted on Monday night appearing to show such an arrest take place in Portland, with a protester being detained by police and placed “into an unmarked vehicle” with witnesses allegedly “told they will be shot if they follow.”
The heavily criticized arrests drew attention from a slew of activists, civil rights advocates, and sympathetic elected officials.
Two detainees, Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea, told the Post that they were reportedly warned about men in military garb nabbing people early last Wednesday morning as protests outside the Multnomah County Justice Center waned. The protesters described their arrest as “terrifying.”
After the wandered on for less than half a block, they were picked up by the men in camouflage and forced into an unmarked minivan.
“I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone said, recalling the event. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”
The U.S. Marshals Service later denied arresting Pettibone, according to Vice.
Before they were reportedly detained, O’Shea remembered, “I see guys in camo–four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, ‘Oh s***. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.'”
On Thursday, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said on background that the agency could confirm Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was in Portland during the day. The spokesperson didn’t acknowledge other questions about the arrests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is part of DHS.
On June 26, President Trump signed an executive order protecting federal buildings from property damage following the spate of sometimes violent protests after the officer involved death of Floyd in Minneapolis.
The director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center in Portland, Juan Chavez, described the arrests as “kidnapping people off the streets.”
Earlier in June, Politico described Attorney General Bill Barr’s similar use of “unmarked federal agents” in Washington, D.C. during particularly intense weeks of protests and riots in the city.