A showdown is escalating between federal and local authorities in Portland, Oregon, as viral videos appear to show federal police officers detaining protesters in unmarked vans.
Oregon’s governor has criticized President Donald Trump for “deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland,” and Portland’s mayor is decrying a “heightened troop presence” by federal officials in that city, calling it a “coordinated strategy from the White House.” Those statements came after social and local news media reports claimed federal or “secret” police were arresting people on the streets of Portland, with viral videos showing officers in camouflage using unmarked vans.
On July 10, President Donald Trump confirmed he sent federal agents to Portland, saying he did so because the city was “out of control,” according to a White House transcript. Trump added, “The locals couldn’t handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely — so nicely that the press doesn’t want to write about it.”
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has come to Portland and released statements decrying “violent anarchists” and a “violent mob” and listing destruction in the city. “It’s time that we take a stand. It’s time that the local leaders here publicly condemn what the violent anarchists are doing and only then I think will local police and federal police get this out of control,” he said in a statement.
Oregon Governor Kay Brown, a Democrat, wrote on July 16: “This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
One video that has been viewed more than 4 million times was shared by Senator Jeff Merkley, who wrote, “Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end.” A man in the video accused federal officers of “kidnapping people.”
The senator also wrote, “Federal forces shot an unarmed protester in the face. These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence. If @DHS_Wolf is coming here to inflame the situation so @realDonaldTrump can look like a tough guy, he should turn around and leave our city now.”
Another video circulating widely:
“Videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, taking people into their vans with no explanation, and driving away,” Daily Beast reported.
People have posted pictures on Twitter of cars and license plates. “Here is the vehicle in question. Is it really legally to use civilian marked vehicles for police/military action? Can someone check for me? That seems extremely f***** up,” wrote one concerned Twitter user.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, wrote on Twitter, “A number of people have asked if I know DHS leadership is in town, and if I’m going to meet with them. We’re aware that they’re here. We wish they weren’t. We haven’t been invited to meet with them, and if we were, we would decline.” DHS stands for the Department of Homeland Security.
Wheeler shared a tweet from a Time Magazine correspondent that said, “White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany just called Lori Lightfoot ‘the derelict mayor of Chicago’ and said she should request federal help to secure the city.”
Wheeler wrote, “This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House. It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now.”
People accused “secret police” of arresting people in Portland.
An Oregon man, Donavan LaBella, was shot in the head with a less lethal impact weapon during a protest outside of the Portland courthouse on July 12, The Oregonian reported. He was hit by a munition fired by a federal officer while holding a speaker over his head, according to the newspaper.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Homeland Security Secretary Came to Portland & Criticized ‘Violent Anarchists,” Saying, ‘It’s Time That We Take a Stand’
The rhetoric and tensions between federal and local officials is growing in Portland.
KOIN-TV reported that Chad Wolf, the acting secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, came to Portland on July 16. On Twitter, Wolf wrote, “I offered @DHSgov support to help locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home. That’s just not going to happen on my watch.”
“We need to make sure that we’re supporting our law enforcement officers here and making sure that they’re going to continue to protect the federal courthouse here,” Wolf said on Fox News. “That’s what DHS does. That’s our mission. We’re not going to abdicate our mission, our responsibilities, however whatever the local leadership here is telling us. We’re going to do our job. We’re going to do it professionally. But we’re not going to have these violent anarchists who show up at the same time every night for a series of hours and having that federal destruction of property. I was able to tour the courthouse here.”
He added: “I saw the graffiti, I saw the broken windows, the broken doors. There’s a facility right across from the courthouse that has 47 coats of paint on it. They have to paint the facility every night after it gets graffiti. It’s time that we take a stand. It’s time that the local leaders here publicly condemn what the violent anarchists are doing and only then I think will local police and federal police get this out of control.”
Wolf also shared a graphic that read, “Portland under siege,” and wrote, “A snapshot of the violence we are seeing nightly in Portland for 47 days now:
-violent anarchists have repeatedly shot explosive fireworks into a courthouse
-violent anarchists have repeatedly broken windows and doors while attempting to take over courthouses.
-violent anarchists have repeatedly thrown paint-filled balloons, rocks, and metal pipes at law enforcement officers -violent anarchists have repeatedly torn down protective fencing around courthouses -a violent anarchist assaulted federal law enforcement with a hammer.”
In a lengthy news release, Wolf wrote, “The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.
He released a list of destruction revolving around Portland unrest, which you can see here.
During a July event, Trump and Wolf discussed Portland.
Wolf told Trump, “I think what we see in Portland is really a smaller example of what we see around the country regarding some of the civil unrest and the attacks on law enforcement. And what you find in Portland is about five and a half weeks of continued violence against the federal courthouse there that the Department of Homeland Security protects.”
Wolf added, “We’ve had to send in additional individuals. We’re making arrests. But there has been violence, there’s been assaults on federal law enforcement officers. And it really just shouldn’t occur. We should have more support of the local police there. But again, the Department of Homeland Security, along with the DOJ, FBI, and others are surging resources, and we’re starting to make a difference there.”
Wolf told Trump that federal authorities have arrested and charged about a dozen people. Trump responded, “And I know you have it in very good control, but it’s a — it’s a pretty wild group, but you have it in very good control. … So (we) appreciate it. Local law enforcement has been told not to do too much. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but that’s okay. Good job. You’ve really done a great job.”
A Local Radio Station Claims Federal Officers Have Been Driving Around Downtown in Unmarked Vehicles to Detain People
KOPB-FM is a radio station licensed to Portland, Oregon. The station reported that, according to people at the scene, word spread that “people in camouflage were driving around the area in unmarked minivans grabbing people off the street.”
The station reported that “Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14…The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets.” According to KOPB, at least 13 people have been charged by federal officials. The radio station said that “Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC” were sent to protect federal property in Portland. According to the radio station, though, not all those arrested were near federal property and it’s not clear “that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity. ”
Conner O’Shea told the radio station that an unmarked vehicle pulled up to them. “I see guys in camo,” O’Shea said to the station. “Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, ‘Oh shit. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.’”
This isn’t sitting well with some top Democrats in the state.
Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden tweeted, “The consequences of Donald Trump unilaterally dispatching (federal) law enforcement into U.S. cities played out in Portland (with a) peaceful protester shot in the head. Trump (and) Homeland Security must now answer why (federal) officers are acting like an occupying army.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, also a Democrat, said in a statement, “Given President Trump’s misuse of force against protesters outside the White House and elsewhere, the deployment of federal agents in Portland raises serious concerns. What was their mission? Did they abuse peaceful protestors? Were their uniforms accurately marked? Did they made the situation worse? What weapons did they use? Were they invited by Portland police or local officials?”
The Mayor Described the Injuries to the Protester
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement on July 12 about LaBella, “A person was seriously injured in Portland last night. This should not have happened. I’m concerned that the actions of federal officers last night escalated, rather than deescalated, already heightened tensions in our city.”
He added, “My main concern is this: that the continuing violence will lead to further injuries or even deaths. Nobody in Portland wants to see that happen.”
If you scroll past the first tweet below, you can see the video in question.