Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday announced his office is investigating the actions of DOJ law enforcement at protests in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., in recent months.
Footage of law enforcement clashing with demonstrators in Portland in July and in D.C.’s Lafayette Square in June defined a summer of nationwide unrest following the police killing of George Floyd. Politicians decried the deployment of federal agents to Portland this week and the firing of chemicals into a crowd of protesters outside the White House last month.
In a statement, Horowitz wrote that his office will work with the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office to investigate use of force allegations leveled against DOJ law enforcement in Portland.
The U.S. Marshals Service, a component of the Justice Department that protects federal judges and courthouses, is currently deployed in Portland along with other federal forces as part of “Operation Diligent Valor.”
Videos from Portland of law enforcement dressed in combat fatigues detaining demonstrators and placing them in unmarked vans sparked national outrage last week.
On Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, requested that the DOJ and DHS OIGs investigate what they called “the unrequested presence and violent actions of recently deployed federal forces in Portland.”
The DOJ inspector general statement also announced that the watchdog is launching a wider evaluation of the DOJ and its law enforcement components’ reactions to civil unrest in Portland and Washington, D.C. over the past two months.
“The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force,” the statement read, adding the review was in response to congressional requests and requests from the public.
The DOJ inspector general’s office will also review the response to protests in Lafayette Square on June 1, along with the Department of Interior inspector general’s office. Law enforcement cleared demonstrators outside the White House by firing chemical agents before President Donald Trump’s photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.