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Portland Protesters Say They’re Being Detained by Federal Agents in Unmarked Cars

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  • According to personal accounts and videos posted online, federal law enforcement officers in Portland have been driving around in unmarked vehicles and detaining people on the street without explanation.
  • The move comes amid days of escalating tensions between protesters and the federal agents deployed by President Trump to quell demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.
  • State and local officials have continually asked the Trump administration to remove the feds, who they say have made the situation worse and more violent by clashing with the demonstrators and firing tear gas and munitions.
  • However, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has said he will not remove his agents, and earlier this week, Trump praised their efforts, falsely claiming that many people had been jailed and that the protests had stopped.

Feds in Unmarked Vehicles

Unidentified federal law enforcement agents in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the street in Portland, Oregon since at least July 14, according to local reports.

Multiple videos posted online show the law enforcement officers driving up to people, detaining them without explanation, and then driving off, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OBP) reported Thursday. 

Personal accounts given to the media also support the allegations. According to interviews conducted by OPB, the agents have detained people involved in the ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

Some of the individuals detained were not near federal property, and it is unclear if the people being arrested committed any crimes.

Demonstrators Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea told reporters that they were walking home in the early hours of Wednesday when a group of people warned them that people in camouflage were driving around in unmarked cars and taking people off the street.

Minutes later, an unmarked minivan pulled up in front of them, and several armed people in camouflage and body armor got out.

“I was terrified,” Pettibone told The Washington Post. “It was like being preyed upon.”

Both men told reporters that they ran when they encountered the mysterious agents. O’Shea, who said he was pursued by a second unmarked van, filmed the dark scene.

“Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets,” O’Shea said in the video, given by OPB, which verified that the metadata confirmed the time and place of the protesters’ story. “I didn’t do anything fucking wrong. I’m recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens.”

Pettibone, however, was unable to escape the feds. 

“I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone said to OPB. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”

He said the agents, who never identified themselves, drove him to a federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Eventually, two officers went to the cell and read him his Miranda rights. They asked if he would waive his rights and answer some questions, but he declined and asked for a lawyer.

The officers responded by ending the interview and releasing Pettibone, who said that they would not tell him why he had been arrested or provide him with any record of his arrest.

While both he and O’Shea said they regularly attend protests, neither could think of anything they had done that would make them targets of law enforcement.

The two men told OPD they believed the feds went after them simply because they were near a protest and wearing black. 

Escalating Tensions

The new allegations come amid escalating tensions brought by the presence of federal officers from the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security, which were deployed to the streets of Portland by President Donald Trump in response to the weeks of ongoing protests in the city.

The agents, who are supposed to protect federal property, have continually clashed violently with protesters. They have frequently deployed tear gas, even though a recent law prohibits the Portland police from using the chemical unless there is a clear safety risk.

On Saturday, Marshals Service officers shot a peaceful protester in the face with so-called “less-than-lethal” munitions. Photos and videos of the incident circulated online showed the man in the street bleeding from his head. According to reports, he was hospitalized with a skull fracture.

State and local leaders have repeatedly called on federal authorities and the Trump administration to remove the agents, whose presence they never requested in the first place. Those calls have grown with the recent escalations.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, has called the federal response “irresponsible” and demanded that the feds stay inside federal buildings or leave the city. Separately, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese has said that the federal response is a “significant setback” in the efforts to ease tensions.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also accused the agents of making the situation worse, saying in a tweet on Thursday that the “shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence.”

Clashes With the Trump Administration

Others have also accused President Trump of deploying the federal officers for his own political gain.

“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a tweet on Thursday. “The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”

Brown also took aim at acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

“He is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes,” she wrote. “He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”

Those remarks were also echoed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who referred to the feds as “Donald Trump’s secret police” in a tweet Thursday.

“Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media,” he added.

However, both Trump and Wolf have made it clear that they plan to ignore the officials’ calls.

During an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Wolf said that he was well aware that local and state leaders wanted federal authorities to “pack up and go home,” but added, “that’s just not gonna happen on my watch.”

President Trump, for his part, praised the federal efforts during a press conference Monday.

“We’ve done a great job in Portland,” Trump said. “I guess, we have many people right now in jail, and we very much quelled it. And if it starts again, we’ll quell it again very easily. It’s not hard to do if you know what you’re doing.”

According to reports, only about a dozen people have been arrested, and the protests have continued throughout the week with violent confrontations between protesters and federal law enforcement.

See what others are saying: (Oregon Public Broadcasting) (The Washington Post) (The New York Times)

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Aurora Police Apologize for Drawing Weapons on Black Family in Mistaken Stop

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  • Police drew guns on a Black family in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday who they believed were in a stolen vehicle, ordering the group out of the car and facedown down on the ground. 
  • The passengers were girls between the ages of 6 and 17 and video shows them sobbing in fear during the incident, with at least two minors in handcuffs. 
  • The adult female driver was able to confirm that the car was not stolen and police explained that the car had the same plate information as a car reported stolen in a different state. They also blamed the mixup on the fact that the family’s car was reported stolen earlier this year, even though Aurora police returned it back to them a day later. 
  • The city’s new police chief apologized and offered them therapy resources. She also said officers followed protocol but should be allowed to use discretion to deviate in situations like this and has ordered her team to look at new training practices.

What Happened? 

Police in Aurora, Colorado apologized Monday for drawing weapons on a Black family after mistaking their car for another stolen vehicle. 

On Sunday, August 2, Brittney Gilliam decided to take her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14 and 17-year-old nieces out to get their nails done. Gilliam told CNN that her niece had just gotten back in the car after looking to see if the nail salon they wanted to go to was open. At this point, she and the girls were parked in a parking lot with the car turned off.

That’s when Aurora police pulled up behind the vehicle with guns drawn. Then, police allegedly yelled at the group to put their hands out of the window and get out of the car.

She said the family exited the vehicle and were told to lay face down on the ground. At that time, police handcuffed Gilliam, her 12-year-old sister, and 17-year-old niece. Gilliam claims that police would not explain why she was pulled over until she was handcuffed. Then, they pulled her away to verify her claim that the car was not stolen as the children remained on the ground. 

A bystander named Jennifer Wurtz began recorded the incident after the family was handcuffed. The footage is about 12 and a half minutes long, but a shorter minute in a half-second clip went viral on Twitter. That clip shows the minors facedown on the floor sobbing as police try to keep onlookers away.

Eventually, police sit the children up and in the longer video, Wurtz can be heard pressing the officers about why they had drawn guns on children. 

Police repeatedly asked her to stop interfering, however, they did say she had the right to film. Wurtz stopped pointing the phone towards the scene, but continued to criticize the stop and asked for the officers’ names.

As frustration from onlookers grew, one officer explained that this was a “high-risk stop” and that police were following procedure.

The onlookers were still angry about the policy being used against children and became angrier after learning that the car was in fact, not stolen. 

What Caused the Confusion? 

As far as what the mixup actually was, Gilliam explained that she had reported her car stolen in February, but that case was cleared up. In fact, her attorney told CNN that when her vehicle was stolen, it was actually returned to her the next day by Aurora police. 

In a statement late Monday, Intern Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said that after the stop, police realized the car Gilliam was driving was not stolen. Instead, another vehicle with the same plate information but from a different state had been. The Associated Press reported that the vehicle was a motorcycle from Montana. 

In her statement, Wilson said “The confusion may have been due, in part, to the fact that the stopped car was reported stolen. After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized.”

“I have called (Gilliam’s) family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday’s events,” she continued. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”

Outrage and Apology 

Still, that did little to put the community at ease, especially since the incident comes amid widespread frustration over how Black people are treated by police. Frustrations are especially high in Aurora, where police have faced security for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. McClain was an unarmed Black man who was stopped by officers as he walked home after he was reported as a suspicious person in a ski mask. 

During the confrontation, officers placed him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with ketamine to sedate him. He then suffered a heart attack in the ambulance and was declared brain dead days later before being taken off life support. 

Just last month, two officers were fired for reenacting the chokehold in a photo near the memorial site for Elijah McClain A third officer was fired for not alerting supervisors about the photo while a fourth resigned before a disciplinary hearing about the incident. 

So this latest incident piled on the existing outrage against the local department and police policies in general. And many, including Gilliam, felt that the stolen car mixup did not justify how the young girls were treated. 

“That’s police brutality,” she told KUSA. “There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way. … You could have even told them, ‘Step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.’ ”

In her statement, Chief Wilson confirmed that a suspect in a stolen vehicle is a high-risk stop, and said officers followed procedures they are trained to carry out. However, she added that the department, “must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.”

Wilson added that an internal investigation into this incident has been opened and said she had directed her team to look at new practices and training. Her promises to reexamine department practices are especially significant because that same Monday night, Aurora’s city council voted to make Wilson the city’s permanent police chief. 

See what others are saying: (Denver Post) (CNN) (Sentinel Colorado)

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260 Campers and Staffers at Georgia Summer Camp Tested COVID-19 Positive

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  • In Georgia, 260 people at a summer camp tested positive for the coronavirus in June, per a report from the CDC. 
  • In total, 597 Georgia residents were at the camp, meaning there was at least a 44% attack rate. 
  • Campers, as well as a good portion of the staff, were 17 and under. The vast majority of those who tested positive were aged 17 or under, contradicting the narrative that kids are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. 
  • Officials believe a variety of factors contributed to this outbreak, including campers not being required to wear masks, being lodged in close quarters, engaging in indoor activities, and participating in daily singing and cheering that likely promoted disease spread.

Campers Test Positive

In Georgia, 260 campers and staffers at an overnight summer camp tested positive for the coronavirus in June, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This data contradicts the narrative that children are less likely to fall ill with and spread COVID-19, which many are relying on in the push to open schools back up in the fall. According to the CDC, 597 Georgia residents were at the camp, meaning the camp had a 44% attack rate. That rate is likely even higher, as test results from just 58% of those at the camp were available.

While the CDC referred to the camp just as “Camp A,” many reports have since identified the camp as YMCA Camp High Harbour, which closed following the outbreak. The median age of campers there is 12, while the median age for staffers is 17. According to NBC News, 231 of those 260 people who tested positive were aged 17 or under.

The outbreak started when a teenage staff member left the camp after developing chills. The next day, that staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. The camp then began sending kids home until it was fully shut down three days later. It was recommended that everyone get tested for the virus and isolate if positive. 

How Did the Outbreak Spread?

Officials believe that while the camp followed a good chunk of the CDC’s suggested safety guidelines, the size of the outbreak might be tied to the fact that the camp neglected to implement a few key rules. For example, while staff at the camp were required to wear masks, the roughly 360 campers were not. The camp also did not utilize ventilation protocols, like keeping windows and doors open to allow air to circulate. Activities took place both indoors and outdoors, including “daily vigorous singing and cheering” which could have promoted disease spread. 

“The multiple measures adopted by the camp were not sufficient to prevent an outbreak in the context of substantial community transmission,” the CDC said in their report. “Relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission.”

The CDC also believes that asymptomatic spread was common and factored into the high case rate. The organization also believes that it is possible that some of the cases could have been tied to outbreaks outside of the camp given the spikes the state of Georgia saw throughout June and July. 

The biggest takeaway from this outbreak, though, is the way that the disease spread among young people. It has commonly been believed that children are not as susceptible to the virus as adults; however, as officials receive new data, that belief is being questioned. 

“This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission,” the CDC wrote. 

Questions of School Safety

This case is adding to concerns that there could be severe outbreaks when schools open up in the fall. 

“We are not ready to have full in-person contact consisting of hundreds of students, faculty and staff with the expectation that no one spread or contracts COVID-19,” Dooly County Schools Superintendent Craig Lockhart told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are not ready to return to in-person schooling and be highly confident that we can protect employees and students.”

Georgia in particular has seen rapid case spikes throughout the state. The safety of schools was further called into question on Monday when it was reported that 260 employees from Gwinnett County School District, the largest school district in the state, either tested positive or were exposed to the coronavirus. They are currently being excluded from work as a result.

It is unclear if these events will change the way the state handles its school reopening strategies or if new policies will be implemented as a result of them.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Washington Post)

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Trump Administration Announces New DACA Restrictions

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  • The Trump administration has rolled back key aspects of DACA in order to review the future of the policy, including preventing new applicants and limiting other benefits for current recipients.
  • In a memo, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said he was making the changes “in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
  • Last month, the Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to end DACA, a move that put similar restrictions in place, including preventing new applicants.
  • After numerous reports of new applicants being rejected, a federal judge ruled that the SCOTUS decision meant that DACA needed to be restored to its full status and that the application process must be reopened.
  • As a result, the new decision by DHS appears to violate the appellate court’s decision and will almost certainly face legal challenges.

DACA Revisited

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced a series of new restrictions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) including prohibiting new applicants and limiting renewals of current recipients in a move that appears to directly violate a federal court ruling.

The move marks the latest attack by the Trump administration on the program, which was created via executive action by President Barack Obama in 2012 to help young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16, also known as DREAMers.

In September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was going to wind down DACA and blocked all new applications, claiming that it was unconstitutional because Obama acted outside his executive powers by creating the program without Congress’ approval.

The Supreme Court rejected that attempt last month in a 5-4 decision. Notably, the Court specifically did not say whether or not DACA was legal or illegal.

Instead, it said Trump could not end DACA because the administration did not give adequate legal reasoning to justify scrapping the program; however, the court did not prevent the Trump administration from getting rid of the program if it came up with more sound legal reasoning.

While Trump did say that he still wanted to end DACA, most legal experts believed that SCOTUS ruling meant that the program, which had been diminished under Trump, had to be restored to its full version before Trump rescinded it in September 2017.

Not only would that mean that the 650,000 DREAMers whose futures had been in limbo for nearly three years would now have security, it also meant that the Trump administration would now have to reopen DACA applications for the estimated 300,000 young immigrants who qualified for the program but were unable to apply since 2017.

Court Rulings

But about a month after the Supreme Court decision, numerous reports began to circulate claiming that the Trump administration was rejecting new DACA applications.

As a result, on July 17, U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm ruled that the Supreme Court decision meant DACA had to be restored to its full status before Trump tried to scrap it, meaning the Trump administration must accept new applicants.

In a court hearing Friday, Trump administration officials said for the first time that they had not “granted nor rejected” any applications, but instead, had put them all “on hold” while the administration decides on the future of the DACA program; however, they also said that some applications were rejected because of an error like missing information or an incorrect fee.

Judge Grimm responded to that new information by condemning the Trump administration for not explaining to applicants why they were being rejected. He also criticized them for not updating the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website, which still said the government was not accepting new applications over a month after the Supreme Court ruling.

The Trump administration said that the website had “outdated and inaccurate information” that didn’t reflect their current policies. That did not satisfy Grimm.

“That is a problem,” he said. “As for the inaccuracy on the website, that has to change and that should be able to change very quickly… It creates a feeling and a belief that the agency is disregarding binding decisions by appellate and the Supreme Court.”

Grimm also told the administration that it must clarify the status of the program in the next 30 days.

DHS Memo

That clarification came in the form of a memo issued by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Tuesday, where he announced that he was “making certain immediate changes to the DACA policy to facilitate my thorough consideration of how to address DACA in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Those changes included rejecting all new DACA applicants, rejecting almost all requests for current DACA recipients to travel outside the U.S. except in “exceptional circumstances,” and requiring current DACA recipients to renew their deferred action and work authorizations every year instead of every two years.

Wolf did say that he was “determined to give careful consideration to whether the DACA policy should be maintained, rescinded, or modified,” but added that based on the evidence he has seen: “I have concluded that the DACA policy, at a minimum, presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission. At the same time, I have concluded that fully rescinding the policy would be a significant administration decision that warrants additional careful consideration.”

Wolf then went on to outline several reasons why he believes the program is problematic.

First, he said he has “serious doubts” about the legality of offering undocumented immigrants protection from deportation. He argued that Congress should be responsible for deciding legal protections for immigrants and that the executive action that created DACA should not be considered permanent.

Wolf also said he was worried about sending “mixed messages” on the enforcement of immigration laws.

“DACA makes clear that, for certain large classes of individuals, DHS will at least tolerate, if not affirmatively sanction, their ongoing violation of the immigration laws,” he said.

“I am deeply troubled that the message communicated by non-enforcement policies like DACA may contribute to the general problem of illegal immigration in a manner that is inconsistent with DHS’s law enforcement mission.”

Next Steps

Wolf’s memo is highly significant not only because it represents the Trump administration’s first official attack on DACA since the Supreme Court ruling, but also because the ruling appears to directly go against Grimm’s ruling. As a result, it is almost certain to face legal challenges.

“We obviously have no choice but to go back to court,” Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer who argued against the Trump administration’s move to get rid of DACA in the Supreme Court told the New York Times. “It was illegal the first time, and now it’s a constitutional crisis. It’s as if a Supreme Court decision was written with invisible ink.”

The Trump administration is already on the defense. On Tuesday, unidentified administration officials gave different and even contradictory explanations to different media outlets.

One official told the Wall Street Journal that the interim rules do not go against Grimm’s order because they “constitute a new DHS policy that replaces the DACA cancellation invalidated by the Supreme Court.”

But another administration official also told ABC News that the memo did not create a new program, but served as an “intervening action” while the administration reviewed the policy. 

Right now, an exact timeline is unclear. Officials declined to answer whether or not the review would be completed before the election in November when asked by the Times.

Many experts believe that while Trump is positioning DACA as a key immigration issue in the election, he is unlikely to move on the question before then.

DACA is a complicated issue for Trump, who has long said the program is illegal, but DACA has been unusually popular among conservatives. Last month, a Pew Research Center poll found that 74% of Americans said they support the program, including 54% of Republicans.

By making this announcement but pushing this issue, Trump still can still energize his anti-immigrant base, while also avoiding at least some backlash from people who support the DREAMers—a point Trump himself seemed to hit on that point in a press conference Tuesday.

“We are going to make DACA happy and the DACA people and representatives happy, and also end up with a fantastic merit-based immigration system,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court’s DACA ruling gave him “more power,” though the decision said nothing about extending executive powers. 

Over the last few weeks, Trump has also said that he will deal with DACA through an executive order on immigration. While his team has tried to backtrack those comments, the remarks are still quite ironic, given the fact Trump’s entire reasoning for getting rid of the program is because he claims it was executive overreach. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)

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