• The U.S. attorney’s office in Oregon said 23 of 98 arrests by federal agents did not result in charges.
  • Portland's mayor has banned the use of CS gas for crowd control. 
  • A U.S. Army study found that recruits who were exposed to tear gas were more likely to get sick with respiratory illnesses.

Federal agents detaining protestors in unmarked vans and the permissive spraying of tear gas have become familiar sights amid the recent unrest in Portland, Oregon.

In a report published Thursday in the Washington Post, Portland detainees shared their experiences on their abductions by federal agents. Many claimed they were given little to no answer as to why they were detained. In some cases, detainees were set free after further evaluation.

Agents have been using a "powerful green laser" to spot and locate potential suspects. Reuters noted in August that the laser is capable of causing permanent eye damage.

The Post profiled John Hacker, an activist and citizen journalist, who was detained by agents in an unmarked van after the green spotlight flashed on his head and torso for over 45 seconds.

Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Harry Fones confirmed that Hacker was falsely detained because authorities believed he matched the description of someone suspected of aiding a protester, who had thrown a firecracker at a federal officer.

“Upon further investigation and coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s office, a decision was made not to pursue charges against Mr. Hacker,” Fones said.

Hacker, 36, is one of many Portland demonstrators who have been arrested only to be released after the accidental or false detainment.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Oregon said 23 of 98 arrests by federal agents did not result in charges. However, the Post reports that it's impossible to confirm how many people have actually been detained and let off with a warning.

As civil unrest and widespread protests continue, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler banned the use of CS gas for crowd control.

"During the last 100 days, Portland, Multnomah County, and State Police have all relied on CS gas where there's a threat to life safety," Wheeler said. "We need something different and we need it now."

Wheeler was a tear gas victim himself after he visited one of the protests.

The ban was fueled by widespread criticism over law enforcement's use of tear gas and other crowd dispersal measures.

CS gas can cause burns on skin, eyes and airways. Its use has been increasingly questioned during the COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. Army study found that those exposed to tear gas were more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses.

As Wheeler enforces the new policy, he urges the community to work together to reduce violence.

"Arson, vandalism, and violence are not going to drive the change this community needs," he said.

Wheeler added that the police will arrest anyone involved in those illegal actions.

"I call on everyone to step up and tamp down the violence," Wheeler said. "I'm acting. It's time for others to join me."