July 24, 2020

Wyden, Merkley, Colleagues Call for Congress to Use the Power of the Purse to Stop Trump's Constitutional Abuses in Portland and Other American Cities

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, senators ask for explicit restrictions in future funding legislation to prevent DHS and DOJ from infringing upon Americans’ First Amendment rights

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., today led eight of their Senate colleagues in calling on congressional leaders to include provisions in future funding legislation that would explicitly prohibit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) from infringing upon the constitutional rights of Americans.

The senators' letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders follows weeks of heavily-armed, unmarked federal forces occupying and escalating violence in Portland, Ore. These federal agents are patrolling the streets without identifying insignia and attacking Black local leaders, the "Wall of Moms," veterans and other peaceful protesters with tear gas and crowd control munition. They have used unmarked vehicles to snatch and detain citizens nowhere near federal property, and seemingly without probable cause.

“Congress must act swiftly to end these abuses of power and begin restricting, reforming, and restructuring DOJ and DHS,” the senators wrote. “We urge you in the strongest terms to be part of that process by including provisions in any appropriations bill that would clearly prohibit DOJ and DHS personnel, programs, and activities from conducting or supporting any action that infringes upon the constitutional right to free assembly and peaceful protest. Doing so would represent a first step toward reversing the politicization of DOJ and DHS under Donald Trump.”

The senators highlighted the urgency of their ask, as Donald Trump announced he plans to expand these abuses into other American cities.

“These disturbing actions are usually reserved for authoritarian governments, not democracies. And anybody who thinks this will be confined to Oregon isn’t paying attention to either what is going on or what the President has promised,” the senators said. “Donald Trump has already stated that he and his administration are treating Portland as a test case and plan to carry out similar actions in other American cities and states.”

Wyden and Merkley were joined by U.S. Sens. Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., Kamala D. Harris, D-Calif., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

A copy of the letter is available here.