SALEM, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Border Patrol officers late Wednesday used pepper spray on demonstrators in Bend, Oregon, as they pushed their way through a crowd to get to two men detained by immigration agents inside a bus that could not move for about 12 hours because of the protesters.
The next day, people again gathered in the central Oregon city to decry the actions by federal agents, question the role of local law enforcement the night before and to listen to a message from the two families whose husbands and fathers were detained.
“Up until today, at 1:45 p.m., we have no news about our husbands. We don’t know if they have been fed. We don’t know if they have slept. We don’t have any information,” said Janet Llerandi-Gonzalez, the director of Director of Mecca Bend, who delivered the families’ messages to a crowd Thursday.
“What happened yesterday is very unfair,” Llerandi-Gonzalez said in Spanish, which was repeated in English by a translator. “They are husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, hard workers and they contribute to the economy of our community.”
The men under detention were removed by 20 border control officers Wednesday. The men’s whereabouts and identities were not clear Thursday morning.
Immigration attorney Micaela Guthrie said the detained men have lived in central Oregon for over a decade, Oregon Public Broadcast reported.
ICE spokesperson Tanya Roman said in a statement the two people arrested had histories of criminally violent behavior, though Roman didn’t offer specifics.
“While ICE respects the rights of people to voice their opinion peacefully, that does not include illegally interfering with their federal law enforcement duties. ICE will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its officers and detainees, and will vigorously pursue prosecution against anyone who puts them in harm’s way,” Roman said.
When the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrived in the central Oregon city, and took the men into custody mid-Wednesday, they were met by hundreds of protesters who prevented the bus they were on from leaving a parking lot, the Bend Bulletin reported.
Bend Mayor Sally Russell had asked people surrounding the bus to leave the area, saying on Twitter that the arrests were not an immigration sweep and that she had been informed the men had warrants for their arrest.
The hours long stand-off between protesters and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials ended when Border Patrol officers used pepper spray, dispersing the crowds around 11 p.m.
“It is intolerable to have people taken from their families, from their job, from their friends from their children for the crime of coming and working hard for a better life,” Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell said before a crowd Thursday.
As Campbell spoke, a few people in the crowd shouted, urging for Bend’s police chief to be fired.
“Absolutely will look into whether or not our police force was aiding federal agents,” Campbell said.
Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said, in a statement on Twitter, that police were “not involved with ICE operations.”
Oregon has a sanctuary state law that prohibits state and local resources from being used to assist federal immigration enforcement.
Krantz said Bend police had been made aware, on Tuesday and Wednesday, that federal agents were in Bend for an investigation, but local law enforcement were not informed of any detailed plans.
Gov. Kate Brown, in a statement on Twitter Thursday, said she was appalled by “the callous actions of the Trump Administration” in Bend.
Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.