Mich. AG would sue to prevent Portland-like federal forces

Peaceful protests, unauthorized arrests are off limits, says attorney general’s office, in warning ahead of Trump administration’s plans to send federal forces.

Federal forces sent to Michigan that conduct the activities alleged to have taken place in Portland — such as instigating violence and warrantless detentions — would be subject to “legal action,” the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

“Residents participating in peaceful protests, which has largely been the case here in Michigan, are not acting outside the law and those demonstrations do not require federal oversight or intervention,” Nessel press secretary Ryan Jarvi said in a statement.

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The Trump administration has said it will be sending federal security forces to Detroit, though there are mixed signals from his administration as to whether the forces will focus on an increase in violent crimes or be deployed to counter protests against racism in U.S. institutions such as law enforcement and the justice system.

President Trump has frequently claimed, without evidence, that anti-racism protests and the Black Lives Matter movement are violent and causing damage in U.S. cities. The current iteration of anti-racism protests came after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, which has led to demands nationwide to redistribute funds for police to other institutions addressing social issues and non-violent calls for service that police currently respond to. Trump has attempted to link those demands to violence in U.S. cities and said protesters, including those who tear down statues or monuments honoring Confederate generals, will face a decade in prison.

Federal forces from the Department of Homeland Security sent to Portland are accused of using disproportionate levels of force, wearing little to no identification, and taking people into custody without warrant, cause, or documentation. Baltimore and Philadelphia officials have said they will prosecute federal forces that violate the law using tactics alleged in Portland.

When asked by NowKalamazoo if the Michigan Attorney General is prepared to do the same, considering Trump’s claims against Detroit protesters, Jarvi issued this statement: 

“The Attorney General’s office has the ability to take legal action to stop federal agents engaging in activities outside the scope of authorities provided to them under state law. While that does not appear to be the case here in Michigan, our office would consider filing a lawsuit to ask federal court to prevent federal authorities from engaging in unauthorized arrests and other unlawful activities. Federal agents or officers who are not coordinating with state authorities have limited circumstances under state law which permit them to operate in that way, such as to protect a federal building or address groups that are engaging in illegal interstate activities. Absent those types of activities, legal action could be taken by our office to ensure federal authorities are kept in check.”

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