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Videos Show How Federal Officers Escalated Violence in Portland

2020-07-25 00:28:08

Federal officers in military gear … … clouds of tear gas … … crowd control munitions … [shots fired] … and locals who wants those those officers gone. “What are you guys protecting?” “Get the [expletive] out of our city!” In just over a week, the chaotic scenes in Portland grabbed the nation’s attention, and raised questions about whether the U.S. government is exceeding its authority and violating civil rights. The officers came because of an executive order signed by President Trump in late June to protect federal property from destruction. “If we didn’t take a stand in Portland, you know, we’ve arrested many of these leaders. If we didn’t take that stand, right now you would have a problem like — they were going to lose Portland.” So what’s going on here? And what methods are the officers using to protect federal sites? Crowd: “Breonna Taylor!” The protests against racism and police brutality, which started in May, had largely been peaceful and were held across Portland. But after federal officers arrived in the city on July 4, demonstrations became centered around this U.S. District courthouse and this building housing federal agencies. Both are property of the U.S. government. The buildings have clearly been vandalized and the Department of Homeland Security has a mandate to protect them. That’s usually done by officers from the Federal Protective Service. But on the ground in Portland, we have seen a new task force, including U.S. Marshals … … BORTAC, a unit of Customs and Border Protection … … and a special response team from ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. According to a government memo leaked to The Times, these units are insufficiently trained to perform crowd control. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Night after night, videos show these officers emerging from the two federal buildings as protesters draw near. Hundreds of videos reviewed by The Times show that although protesters were antagonistic, officers often responded with disproportionate force. [shouting] They blanketed streets with tear gas. “Are you OK?” They struck protesters with batons … … and used flash bangs, pepper balls and other less-lethal munitions to clear the streets. [chanting] Their actions often appeared to escalate rather than de-escalate matters. And in some instances, they attacked when there was no apparent threat. On July 11, protester Donavan La Bella was at the federal courthouse when an officer appears to have fired at his head in retaliation for tossing a spent tear gas canister. “[expletive] you!” [shot fired] La Bella’s mother told local media he suffered skull fractures and needed surgery. Later that night when field medics sought officers’ help for a wounded protester, they were aggressively cleared away. On July 18, a Navy veteran was batoned and pepper-sprayed in another unprovoked attack. His right hand was broken, and he needs surgery. Sometimes members of the press were hit. “He got shot in the back, obviously, and he’s wearing press —” This photographer, Mathieu Lewis Rolland, told The Times that a volley of 10 projectiles were fired into his car. “Ow, ow, ow!” In the middle of all this, protesters were detained in ways that alarmed civil rights advocates and former Homeland Security officials. “Can your people identify themselves as law enforcement?” On July 15, several federal officers were filmed driving in unmarked vehicles in the blocks around the courthouse. “How are we supposed to know who you are? How are we supposed to know you’re not kidnapping us and you’re civilians kidnapping us?” One protester was detained at this location nearby. “What are you doing? Federal officers wouldn’t identify themselves … “Use your words!” … but patches on the right and left sides of their uniforms match those used by members of BORTAC, the tactical unit from Customs and Border Protection. They drove the protester away in an unmarked car. D.H.S. says federal officers have made 43 arrests since July 4. Agents do have the authority to make arrests if they believe that a federal crime has been committed, like damaging federal property or attacking officers. Crowd: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist cops have got to go.” In recent days, the controversy mobilized a larger and more diverse crowd of protesters. [chanting] A so-called wall of moms led marches through Portland’s streets into the federal courthouse where officers cleared them away. The federal presence has also inflamed tensions. Some demonstrators damaged paneling on the courthouse and tried to set them alight, others threw water bottles and fired fireworks toward the building. On Wednesday, July 22, Portland’s mayor joined the protests and was caught in a cloud of tear gas. “This is a egregious overreaction on the part of the federal officers. This is not a de-escalation strategy. This is flat-out urban warfare.” At around the same time, a Customs and Border Protection plane was spotted circling overhead. C.B.P. officials told The Times it was sending a live video feed of the crowd to law enforcement on the ground. Crowd: “No justice, no peace! Protesters and local officials say this is all a case of federal overreach. Oregon’s attorney general has sued the federal government to stop arresting people. “Gas! Gas! Gas!” The president has doubled down, promising to send more federal officers to cities governed by his political rivals. “Because we’re not going to let 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.” The results could look like a national police force acting under presidential orders, able to ignore local demands and arrest residents. In Portland, it has been a recipe for chaos. [explosion]


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