Washington (AFP) - The mayor of Portland demanded the withdrawal of federal officers from the northwestern US city, accusing them of dangerously escalating the situation with abusive, unconstitutional tactics against protesters.
The accusations followed another night of protests in the Oregon city that saw a police association building set aflame.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said federal officers sent to the city had escalated a long-running standoff between protesters and police with tactics that included scooping people off the streets into unmarked vans without identifying themselves.
"What's happening here is we have dozens, if not hundreds, of federal troops descending upon our city. What they're doing is they are sharply escalating the situation," Wheeler said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. And it's not helping the situation at all.
"They're not wanted here. We haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave," he said.
The Oregon attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit late Friday against the federal government, accusing it of overstepping its powers and injuring or threatening peaceful protesters.
The deployment of Homeland Security officers in camouflage uniforms last week followed threats by US President Donald Trump to use federal might to restore order after a weeks-long standoff between protesters and police.
The Portland protests were part of a nationwide wave against police brutality sparked by the killing in May of George Floyd, the unarmed African American who died when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In a tweet Sunday, Trump, who has been campaigning as a "law and order" president, said the federal government was "trying to help Portland, not hurt it."
"Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action," he said.
Wheeler, however, said the presence and actions of the federal officers had ignited "a powder keg."
"The reason we want those federal troops out of our city is they are making the situation much more dangerous.
"I'm worried that one of our residents or one of our local or state law enforcement officers is going to get killed because of the tactics that they are currently engaged in," he said.
Police declared a state of riot early Sunday after people broke into a Portland Police Association office and set the building on fire.
The blaze was put out and the situation brought under control, the police said on Twitter.
Earlier, at another location outside a judicial center and federal court building that has been at the center of protests, police said people in a large crowd were seen tearing down fencing and using it to barricade courthouse doors.
"Some others tried to persuade them to stop but were shouted down," police said on Twitter.