BEND, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Border Patrol agents late Wednesday used pepper spray on demonstrators 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 men under detention were removed by the 20 agents, and their whereabouts and identities were not clear Thursday morning.
The Bend Bulletin reported the men had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials since mid-Wednesday, when hundreds of protesters prevented the bus they were on from leaving a parking lot.
The Border Patrol agents used pepper spray to disperse the protesters near the bus as the two men were taken out about 11 p.m., the newspaper said.
“They — despite our best efforts at a peaceful protest — took them to get away,” said Morgan Schmidt, a staff member of Bend’s First Presbyterian Church who identified herself as a clergy witness.
Immigration attorney Micaela Guthrie said the detained men have lived in central Oregon for over a decade, Oregon Public Broadcast reported.
ICE spokeswoman 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.
The crowd of protesters appeared at the bus because one of the detained men managed to call his wife, said Carlos Sanchez, identified by local media as a family spokesman.
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.
Portland-based nonprofit Innovation Law Lab has asked a federal court to prevent immigration agents from taking the men out of central Oregon, the ACLU said Wednesday night.