PORTLAND, ORE – Life was a series of adjustments for protesters in Portland as they met with federal agents every day.
“We came here dressed in T-shirts and spinning Hula-Hoops and stuff and started gassing us, so we came back with respirators and started shooting us, so we came back with vests and started aiming at the head, so we started wearing helmets and now they call us terrorists, “said Mac Smiff, a local black organizer in Portland.” Who’s stepping up? It’s not us. “
The Portland protests lasted two months, but the situation deepened when federal agents ̵1; from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and US Marshals – were deployed to the city early weekend of July 4.
Since then, agents have been using tear gas, pepper, and spraying “less deadly” ammunition, sometimes without distinction, at the crowds. The city saw the largest turnout in protests this weekend, with more than 5,000 people gathered in front of and around 5,000 people in front of the U.S. Court of Justice Mark O. Hatfield, who was heavily guarded by federal agents.
As the nights turned into weeks and months, protests developed. A wall of mothers appeared last week, dressed in yellow and holding sunflowers, joining weapons and creating a physical barrier that separated the protesters – some of their own children – from federal officers. The following night, they were accompanied by a wall of fathers, throwing out leaf blowers to blow tear gas back to federal officers.
Some protesters, who do not know if they will be warned before tear gas fills the air, are prepared with gas masks and nebulizers filled with eyes.
At one point, naval veteran and India demonstrator Wynne thought it began to rain in the middle of the night as they wore their gas mask. It turned out to be the density of what appeared to be a spray of spices from federal officials.
“My skin started to burn. “Federal officers are escalating the road before we do that, and they’re escalating to the point where it’s not necessary,” Wynne said. “I know the tactics of crowd control, and this is not what’s happening.” You don’t have to put on 20 or 30 tear gas canisters … And they don’t care who flows. “
Agents operating heavy riot gear got into quarrels with protesters who created their own makeshift shields and shields, including helmets and a “Press” bulletproof vest, after a detention order was approved that prevents federal agents from arresting or attacking journalists. and legal observers.
Jayla Lindseth, a black protester, encourages people to protest with at least a few other friends who can help protect each other and to “arrest” them.
“When I say arrest, I mean you see how your friend is caught.” [by officers]”take them back,” Lindseth advised. “We’re here, fighting for change.”
While many have preached a nonviolent response to the use of force by federal agents, others face fire and mortar fireworks over a fence that agents have built around the federal courthouse.
“Yes, some people throw stones and bricks and water bottles and fireworks.” But they are small, small fragments of people protesting, “said Paul Swortz, one of the naval veterans standing next to the wall of veterans. “This is a handful of people among thousands, and you won’t try thousands of people based on the actions of a handful.”
The Portland Transportation Bureau filed a ceasefire and abandoned an order calling on federal agents to remove the fence on Tuesday, claiming it had been built illegally and obstructed public rights in the way. The agency added that it had already started assessing a maximum fine of $ 500 every 15 minutes, the fence leaving the street, which had already reached a fine of almost $ 200,000.
The Trump administration has deployed an unsolicited and apparently unwelcome federal response to the city to counter demonstrations and protests condemning police brutality following the killing of George Floyd while in custody in Minneapolis police.
Agents, many of whom wear uniform dark emblems, making it difficult to identify the agency they work for, have been accused of being too harsh against protesters. According to the lawsuit, several non-profit organizations, including Protect Democracy, Don’t Shoot Portland and Wall of Moms, filed on behalf of protesters on Monday.
The complaint alleges that federal agents have grossly crossed their boundaries beyond the protection of federal property with root bullets and explosives with explosives and other similar tactics.
The presence of federal agents was seriously criticized not only by the protesters, but also by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who repeatedly asked Trump to remove them.
This week, Wheeler called for an “immediate meeting” with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss a “ceasefire.”
Officials from the Ministry of Homeland Security did not return a request for comments on the meeting.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Marshal’s Service have already stated that they have already identified officers who could possibly rotate agents in Portland.
At least 114 federal officers were registered in the city on Wednesday, according to the court.
Attorney General William Barr also considered using federal force in Portland during his testimony before Tuesday before the House Judicial Committee.
“As a result of the death of Georg Floyd, violent riots and anarchists have abducted legitimate protests that have caused senseless confusion and the destruction of innocent victims,” he said. “The current situation in Portland is a good example.”
Barr added that he must increase the federal presence in the city in an effort to “protect federal functions and federal buildings.”
So far, passions are more decisive for demonstrators who have demonstrated for days and even weeks.
“I’m tired of it. I’m so tired. I’m sleepless because I’m a single mom and I work full time and I have to come and spend nights with you because I can’t stand on my own street and say, “Black lives matter,” “dressed in a signatory yellow T-shirt with a Mamov wall,” he said. on Monday night. “Black lives matter, that’s why we’re here.” We’re not here for a building. We don’t care about the building, we don’t care about your stupid fence, we care about black lives. “
Maura Barrett and David Douglas reported from Portland and Safia Samee Ali from Chicago.