Protesters move away from tear gas in Portland
Protesters move away from tear gas shot by federal law enforcement officers during a demonstration against police violence and racial inequality in Portlan on Monday. Photo by Caitlin Ochs via Reuters

The San Diego City Council voted 6-2 Thursday to adopt a resolution asserting the city’s authority to protect its own streets without intervention by federal law enforcement officers and affirming the First Amendment rights of San Diegans.

The resolution brought before the council by Council President Georgette Gomez cites unidentifiable federal police in Portland, Oregon using violence and unlawful tactics to violate the rights of peaceful protesters.

“This kind of heavy-handed authoritarian behavior is not welcome here,” Gomez said. “We denounce the use of unlawful and unconstitutional activities against peaceful protesters.”

The resolution denounces unconstitutional actions by federal law enforcement officers, asserts the City of San Diego’s right to protect its own streets without federal intervention, supports efforts by both houses of Congress to hold inquiries to keep law enforcement agencies accountable, requests the San Diego City Attorney’s office monitor the activities of federal law enforcement on city streets and affirms that the council stands up for the First Amendment rights of its citizens.

However, the resolution does not immediately create any action other than the above statements, a fact which earned the “no” votes from Councilman Scott Sherman and Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry. Councilman Chris Cate was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

Matt Yagyagan, council director of government affairs for Gomez, said the city would work with the city attorney’s office to “monitor” legislation and actions by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies regarding the deployment of federal officers in San Diego, but that would be part of an ongoing effort and not necessarily part of additional resolutions or an ordinance.

Greg Block, a member of the Truman National Security Project, said federal officers dramatically exceeded authority in Portland, “well beyond their stated mission of protecting federal buildings.”

On June 5, a leaked DHS document named 18 cities it was potentially exploring deploying federal police to — including San Diego.

Andy Kopp, also of the Truman Project, said these federal police were dangerous to the rights of Americans as they were “untethered from accountability to local communities.”

Councilman Mark Kersey said he supported San Diegans’ First Amendment rights and had “no interest” in seeing the federal government sending in police to quell peaceful protests.

“But no one has a right to violent behavior in the name of the First Amendment,” he added.

— City News Service