Unidentified federal agents were seen in Portland, Oregon, over the past few days detaining Black Lives Matter protesters and taking them away in unmarked minivans without explanation, according reports.
As Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, the federal agents have been patrolling the city dressed in camouflage with generic "police" patches across their chests and backs since July 14. In several videos filmed by activists on the scene, the agents can be seen walking up to protesters, detaining them, and placing them in the back of a minivan without any comment.
Far-right activists often appear in military-like outfits at the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, which prompted many demonstrators to initially question the authority of the unmarked law enforcement officers. But after several protesters were detained, witnesses say the situation gradually became more clear.
One protester named Mark Pettibone said that protesters heard rumors of protesters being nabbed and put into unmarked vehicles, so he was on alert as they headed home from a largely peaceful protest downtown. After walking a block, a minivan pulled up in front of him and his friend, Conner O'Shea.
"I see guys in camo," O'Shea said. "Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, 'Oh shit. I don't know who you are or what you want with us.'"
The pair ran, but they saw another van shortly after. This time, they hid and filmed the event.
"Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets," O'Shea narrated. "I didn't do anything f*cking wrong. I'm recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens."
Pettibone, on the other hand, was grabbed by the agents. He said that he was unable to see what happened from there because his hat was pulled over his face and his hands were held above his head as he was put in the van.
He was taken to a building that he later learned was the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Pettibone said authorities patted him down, searched his belongings, and took his picture.
Pettibone said he was put into a cell and read his Miranda rights after one officer proclaimed "this is a whole lot of nothing." He was released 90 minutes later after refusing to answer questions and requesting legal representation. He wasn't given any record or citation for his arrest.
The U.S. Marshal Service confirmed that they had not arrested Pettibone.
As OPB reported, it isn't clear if the protesters being detained have violated any laws or if they were on or near federal property.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that acting Secretary Chad Wolf was in the city.
Attorney Juan Chavez, who directs a civil rights project in Orego,n denounced the activity.
"It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they're kidnapping people off the streets," he said.
The agents were put in place after President Donald Trump repeatedly called for cities like Seattle and Minneapolis to quell ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd, adding that he would send federal troops in if they did not.