Washington, D.C. – This morning, following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deployment of federal personnel to Seattle, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined nine of her Senate colleagues in calling on congressional leaders to ensure that future funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) explicitly prohibits these agencies from infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights, including their First Amendment right to protest.
The senators’ letter follows weeks in which heavily armed, unidentified federal forces in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the streets in Portland, Oregon, and deploying munitions and tear gas against protesters. According to local leaders, the federal incursion has inflamed conflict in Portland at a time when there have been efforts to de-escalate friction between protesters and police, and has been opposed by elected officials in Portland and throughout Oregon.
“Congress must act swiftly to end these abuses of power and begin restricting, reforming, and restructuring DOJ and DHS,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We urge you in the strongest terms to be part of that process by including provisions in any appropriations bill that would clearly prohibit DOJ and DHS personnel, programs, and activities from conducting or supporting any action that infringes upon the constitutional right to free assembly and peaceful protest. Doing so would represent a first step toward reversing the politicization of DOJ and DHS under Donald Trump.”
Earlier today, Senator Cantwell released the following statement after DHS ignored state and local leaders and sent federal personnel to Seattle: “Americans have the constitutional right to assemble and protest. Local and state authorities have not asked for assistance from the federal government, and it is not the role of the Department of Homeland Security to unilaterally intervene in protests in American cities. What we need now is de-escalation. The administration should focus on ways to protect civil rights and make the changes Americans are calling for, not cause further provocation and increase tensions.”
On Tuesday, Senator Cantwell joined a group of lawmakers in introducing legislation to block federal law enforcement occupations of Seattle and other U.S. cities.
Senator Cantwell was joined on the letter to Senate appropriators by U.S. Senators Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The full text of the letter is available HERE.