Federal agents fired tear gas and shoved protestors to the ground in Bend, Oregon, where a demonstration erupted on Wednesday night after local activists attempted to block a bus from taking people into ICE custody.
Two Mexican immigrants identified as longtime members of the Bend community were detained by immigration officials and put on an unmarked bus before the protest began, according to reports.
A woman who attempted to block the vehicle from taking the men was joined by hundreds of residents throughout the day, essentially forming a human chain around the bus within a hotel parking lot.
Police officers arrived on the scene but were not taking part in the ICE operations, with Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz saying in a statement: “We are on scene to allow free speech and a peaceful area to assemble and to provide life safety support. We are not there in an assisting role with ICE.”
After nightfall, a group of 50 additional federal agents descended on the protest. The agents violently clashed with activists, forcing people out of their way and firing tear gas without warning, according to the Washington Post.
Family members of the detained immigrants who had gathered outside of the bus along with activists were shoved to the ground, including a young girl, the newspaper reported.
After dispersing the crowd, agents stormed the bus and took the men out of the vehicle. They were moved into another unmarked van nearby, which drove off shortly after.
Families of the detained immigrants released a statement through a local advocate after the protest, which said in part: “We are simply trying to provide for our families, but because of the colour of our skin and our country of origin, that is not what has happened here today.”
ICE alleged the two men had a “history of criminal violent behaviour” in a statement on Wednesday, despite reports indicating neither immigrant was presented with a warrant before they were detained. Both men had been living in the area for nearly 15 years, according to the Post.
“While ICE respects the right of people to voice their opinion peacefully, that does not include illegally interfering with federal law enforcement duties,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
Federal agents have been dispersed to several cities across the country facing major protests under President Donald Trump, with violent clashes occurring between officers and activists in Portland in recent weeks. The Bend police department said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “not made aware” of detailed plans from ICE or other federal agencies conducting operations in the city this week.
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