US police have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around Portland and grab people off the streets, as they gathered to decry police brutality, on the 50th consecutive day of Black Lives Matter rallies in the city, witnesses say.
Hundreds of people gathered in the city on Thursday to protest against acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf who had arrived in Portland to meet with law enforcement officials.
Wolf had earlier called protesters “lawless anarchists,” who have been protesting since the death of George Floyd at the hand of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.
According to witness accounts and videos posted online, police officers drove up to protesters, detained them with no explanation, and drove off in the streets of Portland.
“Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets,” says a protester, while capturing a video. “I’m recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens.”
Another protester who was arrested and released later, said, “I am basically tossed into the van. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”
He said that he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building.
Mark Pettibone wouldn’t learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.
“It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,” Pettibone said, adding that nobody explained why he was being arrested.
“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” he said. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”
The latest detentions came after Portland police and President Donald Trump said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have persisted for more than six weeks.
Trump has repeatedly described Portland protests as “lawlessness,” and praised the role of federal law enforcement officers during the rallies.
In a letter released Thursday, Wolf also described protesters as “violent mobs.”
Police have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far.
They also left one protester hospitalized with skull fractures after shooting him in the face with “less lethal” munitions, on Saturday.
Hundreds of people have so far been arrested for participating in the Black lives Matter protests that stared to spread across the nation since Floyd’s death in late May.