Protests at the federal Justice Center in downtown Portland have become a nightly ritual, but protesters have also been expanding their reach across the city. Demonstrations at various precinct offices and the Portland Police Association, the police union, have drawn crowds of hundreds. In recent days, the demonstrations focused on these “satellite offices,” mainly because now that the federal officers have left, people’s attention turned back to the local police. On both August 6 and 7, the East Precinct, near the edges of the city proper, were overwhelmed by protesters.
federal law enforcement
The Trump Administration sent federal law enforcement, including the paramilitary squad of Customs and Border Patrol, BORTAC, which has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, to the streets of Portland, OR to stop the ongoing demonstrations against racist police violence. Federal law enforcement, working with local police, is also being sent to other cities where anti-racist protests are going on. We speak with constitutional lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard about the legality of this and how activists can fight back to protect the rights of everyone and end police violence and lawless impunity.
Several dozen additional out-of-town federal law enforcement officers are deploying to Portland as they look to make additional arrests in the coming days, while also shifting tactics from the use of tear gas, according to multiple federal law enforcement sources. The federal response has so far sparked four civil rights lawsuits, a Department of Justice inspector general investigation, proposed legislation in Congress limiting the role of federal law enforcement in American cities, and has injured a number of protesters. Rather than quell the protests as was the intent, it’s served to reenergize and strengthen the city’s protest movement.
A federal judge late Friday halted the implementation of a Seattle ban on police use of tear gas, pepper spray and other so-called less lethal weapons used for crowd control. His decision gives more latitude to law enforcement to use the tools ahead of what could be a weekend of protests, as federal agents arrive in Seattle with the stated orders of protecting federal property. A separate court injunction against use of the crowd control weapons remains in place, although that order allows for their targeted and limited deployment in certain circumstances.
Portland, Ore. — The protests have drawn people from all walks of life, and on Friday night, veterans from all over showed up downtown to create a “Wall of Vets” to protect protesters. And they showed up in white shirts to support the Black Lives Matter movement. "It's something I believe in. The other vets here -- this is the first time they've come down; they don't like crowds either; we believe in something; it's time to stand," said Jonathan Fisher, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. Veterans responded after the Navy veteran, Chris David, seen on video being beaten by federal officers, called for them to join.
Far from restoring order, the arrival of federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Border Patrol in Portland, Oregon has only heightened tensions, with agents attacking and arresting protesters nightly. DHS’ Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli took to social media yesterday to share images of items confiscated from demonstrators. “Here is a shield and a couple of gas masks from a rioter arrested in Portland. Not a sign with a slogan that someone expressing their first amendment rights might carry, but preparations for violence. Peaceful protester? I don’t think so,” he wrote.
First and foremost, it is a political stunt to capture the law and order crowd and press on divides between the coastal cities and inland voters. But it’s also more sinister than that. The use of federal forces is designed to weaken local accountability by freezing out local government that constituents can reach. Portland's mayor might not even have opposed some "help" from the feds, but he wasn't asked. In other words, this wasn't mutual aid. This was indeed an invasion. An alphabet soup of federal agencies have been employed to crack down on police brutality protests, including the National Guard, the US Marshals, and the Secret Service (the National Guard being the only one of these organizations whose mission even arguably includes civil unrest). But the highly publicized Portland kidnappings or detentions, depending on which you want to call them, were carried out by Customs and Border Patrol, specifically the Border Patrol tactical squad which is called BORTAC .
In response to the use of tear gas being utilized by federal officers against demonstrators, including a group of moms, in an uprising in Portland, Oregon, this week, a like-minded dads’ group encouraged others to show up to the event with leaf blowers in order to dissipate the chemical agents. Uprisings in Portland have happened nightly since the end of May, in response to police violence against Black Americans, including renewed attention to Jason Washington, a Black resident of the city who was shot and killed by police in 2018. Tensions have escalated in recent weeks as federal officers began appearing at the events. Last week, there were reports of agents in unmarked vans stopping next to protesters, whisking them away in the vehicles without stated justification and without identifying who they were.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities. One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters. "We’re not going to leave New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore, and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country, all run by liberal Democrats,” Trump said. Atty. Gen. William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf would roll out a plan this week for tamping down crime in various U.S. cities.
David stood as solidly as a rock while federal officers pepper-sprayed him twice and struck him at least five times with a baton during a rally outside the Hatfield Courthouse on Saturday, July 18. "I knew I was never going to react. I was never going to fight back," he said. "I'm a little too old to be beaten by a bunch of young guys." David, 53, of Portland, is hardly an anti-establishment type. He says he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, after high school, later serving with the Navy Seabees while becoming a commissioned officer and aeronautical engineer. David is hoping life will return to normal soon. While he never did speak with the camouflaged feds, he said he hopes they hear his message: "That oath of office is essentially swearing loyalty to the Constitution of the United States, and what they're doing is not constitutional anymore."
Anonymous masked federal agents in military uniforms jump out of unmarked minivans, abducting seemingly random people on the street in Portland, frightening new viral videos show. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC have been sent to the city to tamp down of 49 days of continuous demonstrations against racist police brutality. The move appears to be the Trump administration’s latest tactic to crush the nationwide protests that erupted in late May over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
In Portland, on July 16, protesters held their 50th straight night of demonstrations against police violence and racism. Oregon Live reports "Federal officers responded to one late-night demonstration downtown by using gas, smoke and impact munitions to press protesters away from two federal buildings." Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on federal officers to leave Portland, but they remain and continue to use aggressive and violent tactics. Brown called the deployment of federal officers "political theater" and a “blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf traveled to Portland to meet with federal law enforcement officials.