The federal government’s urge to lift the order came just one day after the Trump administration struck a deal with Governor Kate Brown (D-Ore.) To try to quell unrest and violence around the Portland Federal Courthouse.
Under the pact, Oregon state police agreed to set up a perimeter of security around the building, while federal law enforcement officers from across the country would withdraw and eventually leave the city.
However, the FBI’s offer to lift the restraining order indicates that they want to maintain maximum flexibility in responding to the turmoil if they take on a front-line role again or if the state police prove inadequate.
“Individuals abuse the TRO to impersonate members of the press and circumvent legal orders, or actively participate in protest activities and even illegal acts while masquerading as members of the press under the protection of the TRO,” wrote the lawyers of the Ministry of Justice. “Even individuals who do not expressly take advantage of the TRO often find themselves in a crowd of protesters or between officers and active protesters, making it incredibly difficult and dangerous to observe the restrictions when implementing crowd control measures.”
Clever protesters abuse the TRO to circumvent legal orders, hinder law enforcement, and commit crimes. The TRO has become “an instrument of evil” and must be disbanded, “DOJ’s lawyers argued.
The federal government’s submission also boils down to a sort of rejoinder at journalists’ claims that they were targeted by law enforcement officials in violation of the court order. Simon has scheduled a status conference on the matter for Friday 10 am PST.
The federal entry contains seven statements from senior officials and frontline officers on alleged cases of people wearing “press” patches or badges attacking officers, disrupting them, damaging the fence, or attempting to scale.
Law enforcement officers said in a case last week that a person with ‘press’ letters on their clothes was being held and carrying a gun. The FBI also quotes tweets and video posted online by freelance reporter Sergio Olmos of a person wearing a “ press ” shirt walking towards the perimeter fence while holding a riot shield and cell phone.
Another internet video quoted in the filing allegedly features an alleged journalist in the protests stating that he or she “still has a lot of press passes to hand out to people”.
While the Department of Justice submission contains plenty of photos, many depict people identified as press mingling with crowds that the officers say are violent or dangerous.
One specific incident described in the filing that led to an arrest is that of Cameron Knutson, who was detained outside the courthouse last week after allegedly going through an opening others opened in the perimeter fence.
At the time of his arrest, he was wearing commercial grade fireworks. The subject also bore insignia indicating that he was a journalist, ‘wrote a customs and border guard agent.
Court records indicate that Knutson was charged with a criminal offense for violating federal regulations and holding an innocent plea. A magistrate judge ordered him to be released, with a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and an order to stay at least five blocks from the federal courthouse “unless for official business.”
One of two federal prosecutors assigned to Knutson’s case withdrew on Thursday. No reason was given.