End Portland’s Relationship with the Joint Terrorism Task Force

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The Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) was established in 1980 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the purpose of inter-agency exchange of information and tactics to combat terrorism. Terrorism, as defined by the FBI, is “the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The United States government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008. Mandela was a designated terrorist 18 years after he was released from prison, 15 years after he won the Nobel peace prize, and 14 years after he was elected president of South Africa. Currently, in the view of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence wing, anger over the election of Donald Trump, reflected in protests across the country, is a driving force in “domestic terrorist violence.” If you do not share this view, it is time to end our involvement in this task force.

This task force has it's roots in racism and has repeatedly targeted our immigrant and refugee neighbors. It also targets those of the muslim faith. Portland should not be supporting a racist task force. 

You, Ted Wheeler labeled our city, Portland, a Sanctuary city on November 15th, 2016 to protect us from Federal mandates that threatened communities and individuals who came here to study, work, and live. In a new form of progressive legislation the City Council of Portland said it would not follow congressional, executive, and judicial attacks on its people. However, we hypocritically continue our participation in the JTTF. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump’s entire administration consider those who fight against oppression to be domestic terrorists. If you do not hold this view, you should not be allowing the city’s resources to be used in service to Jeff Session’s Injustice Department. If the people who speak against the deportation of our neighbors are terrorists, this is not a sanctuary city. As you know, the Task Force designates PPB officers to work with the FBI to identify alleged terrorism threats. The caveat is that these officers can use Federal level justifications to nullify civil liberties in Portland, and henceforth act as a catalyst for state sponsored breaches of rights.


Oregon law (ORS 181.575) protects residents and organizations from law enforcement beginning criminal investigations unless there is reasonable cause to do so. The JTTF can open up preliminary investigations based on extremely loose framework outlined in the Attorney General's Guidelines to Domestic FBI Operations and Portland’s own Memorandum of Understanding. In Denver, members of the JTTF were found to be surveilling an organization that opposed war by giving free vegetarian meals twice a week in a public park to anyone who was hungry. Is this what we want in Portland? Is this what we already have in Portland? Would you even know? Contradictions of amended rights, city policy, and local and federal policing allows huge holes in the freedoms of Portlanders, especially those participating in the resistance of Donald Trump’s presidency. Instead of targeting white supremacist terrorists, this federal administration has focused on targeting activists in their fight for justice.

While terrorism does occur in our country, it rarely occurs in our city aside from white supremacists attacks. Yet, these sorts of extremists are not the people who the JTTF is targeting. How is it keeping us safe? Police attacks on peaceful protesters are occurring at a dangerous rate as PPB adopts the rhetoric from Trump’s administration which believes that advocates are the terrorists. Furthermore, if there ever were an actual terrorist threat in our community, our police should be able to investigate it without disregarding Portlanders civil liberties. If they are not equipped to do so, they are not equipped to protect and serve. Our federal bureau of investigation has proven unable to do just that. How can we continue to call ourselves a sanctuary city when our officers who have sworn to serve and protect us are working with the Trump administration to surveil our most active community members. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either we are a sanctuary city or we are not. You have an opportunity, Mayor Wheeler, to show the rest of the nation what a real sanctuary city is. Sanctuary in name only is no sanctuary at all. Portland has halted its work with the task force in the past with no negative consequences. Cities such as San Francisco have done the same. It is time that you show real leadership and take this active step towards sanctuary.

Mayor Wheeler, we have little confidence in the FBI, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency, or the Department of Homeland Security. As Commissioner Fritz has frequently pointed out, including in her opposition to this task force, gaining public trust starts here at home, and the lack of transparency and culture of seeing Portlanders as the enemy that pervades the FBI agreement erodes that community trust. As our elected leader, help us find a new way to address measures of security without flash bangs and massive surveillance. We do not doubt the threat that extremists pose and how they have proven to be dangerous. We reject the notion that this city’s immigrant, activist, and refugee populations are terrorists. We will follow up this petition in concert with the other community groups who have long been pushing to leave the JTTF. This issue will not go away on it’s own. We call on you, as the mayor of this city, to combat oppression. Act.

 



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