There are reports out of Portland, Oregon that federal officers are using certain tactics to try and disperse protesters. Suppose some citizen of the United States (but not Oregon itself) finds this unacceptable for ethical, political, and practical reasons (ie, that this behavior is ineffective in achieving the claimed goal), and wishes to stop (or hinder) them. What elected officials are responsible, or can check these decisions? Similarly, what legal actions are underway or might have use of public attention?

An answer could consist of any of the following:

  • A relevant public relations official, who would be normally responsible for answering such concerns.
  • A group who has a legal case to prevent or curb such tactics, ideally with some discussion of their case, and some means of showing support for this group.
  • The correct state or federal representative(s) who has/have authority over the DHS.

My question is ultimately about who is, publicly, accountable for the activities of federal officers on US citizens, and how I can communicate with, or otherwise put pressure on, them. Ie, elected officials, or those employed by such, to hear citizen complaints.

Based on my own naive research, it appears that the DHS has a secretary for media relations, but not for concerned citizens. I believe the President is an elected official over the DHS, but it's not clear to me that they are the 'closest' such representative (I'm also not optimistic about their help). I'm aware of a lawsuit by the ACLU preventing officers from harassing journalists on the scene, but haven't found anything about the unmarked vans.

  • 1
    Welcome to Politics SE! There are aspects of this question that can be a good fit on this site (such as the questions of accountability), but questions about what you can do as a citizen is not as good a fit as it's a matter of opinion what would be effective and what would not. Please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more.
    – Joe C
    Jul 24, 2020 at 20:54
  • @JoeC The 'what can I do' portion is specifically looking for who, in the political system, is responsible/answerable for these actions. I think it should decrease subjectivity/opinions if anything. I am not asking for how likely they are to care. For example, an answer could indicate how responsible my senators might be (do they have firing/hiring power over the acting DHS?). In other words, who holds the ability to check these actions? Jul 24, 2020 at 22:35
  • @ArtimisFowl So, maybe, edit your question to highlight that that is the central question here
    – divibisan
    Jul 24, 2020 at 22:50
  • @divibisan I've edited to try and further clarify, though the original still reads with this emphasis to me. Could you point out where you feel misled? Jul 25, 2020 at 0:52
  • 1
    I was interested in something similar: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/54749/…. So you might take a look at answers there and then ask a new follow up question, e.g., "Are there any elected officials with authority over DHS or who regularly communicate with them? If so, which officials?" Something along those lines might be received better, particularly if you remove the "I" from the question. Once you know if/which officials, you can easily find ways to contact them.
    – minsalty
    Jul 25, 2020 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


Rather than the ACLU matter, I suggest you look into the separate lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General (AG) Ellen Rosenblum. That seems to be more based on the concerns you identified, e.g. the statement by Mark Pettibone asserting he was arrested without probable cause. See also this NBC report. While the Oregon AG won't necessarily be interested in your out-of-state input, if you know someone more directly involved in this, the office of the AG's general phone number is publicly available.

Also separately, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, the Department of Justice's chief law enforcement official in Oregon, called for an inspector general investigation into DHS personnel over reports of two protesters being detained without probable cause. UPDATE: DOJ Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz said today his office was opening an investigation.

While neither of these actions necessarily provide you a way to "show support", they do provide indications that the allegations are being taken seriously. Of the two approaches listed above, I personally give the IG investigation a better long-term chance of identifying meaningful evidence of any civil rights violations, if they occurred. The system has its checks and balances, but they aren't necessarily responsive to hyperbolic claims, or statements of support vs opposition from individuals who wouldn't have standing in court.

PS: Being arrested and then released without charges isn't too surprising for protests as massive and violent as Portland has had. Law enforcement officers make arrests based on "reasonable suspicion", but charging decisions (in federal cases) are made by lawyers working for the U.S. Attorney, who care more about sufficient evidence to get a conviction. There's nothing that requires federal law enforcement officers to make arrests only on federal property, nor to drive marked vehicles.

PPS: There's a particular Oregon law that may be causing some confusion here. That law permits federal agents/officers to make arrests based on Oregon state laws, but it adds requirements around arresting officer identification that apply only if the arrest is made based on state (not federal) law. People who may want to politicize the issue seem to skip over that detail.

Also, the judge in the Oregon AG's lawsuit just denied the state's motion for a restraining order. Addressing some of the issues raised, the court said:

The State has presented just one example of an arrest without probable cause and one example of an unreasonable seizure. That is the sum total of the evidence before me that underpins the legal injuries the State asserts in its brief,” the judge wrote. “In both instances of a federal seizure it is either admitted or clearly visible that the agents’ uniforms say ‘Police.'

The injury the state asserts is entirely conjectural. First, the state candidly admits that it does not have a shred of evidence that counter-protesters have ever, anywhere, kidnapped a protester or anyone associated with protests,” he wrote. “Second, the asserted interest rests on an utterly implausible inference. The State’s reasoning is that counter-protesters, once they learn of seizures of protesters by federal agents, will dress up like police and go out on private missions to kidnap protesters. This despite the fact that such kidnappings are Measure 11 felonies in Oregon, punishable by mandatory minimum sentences of up to 70-90 years in prison.

  • Thank you for noting the law suits in progress. The answer would be improved by removing the P.S. in my opinion. The part that's disturbing to me isn't that federal officers are arresting people, it's that they are doing so without clear indicators that they are officers (and a way to hold particular officers responsible). Jul 24, 2020 at 22:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .