Security in the U.S. Lies in the People's Defence of the Rights of All

People in Portland, Oregon Fight Trump's Imposition of Federal Forces to Suppress Protests

Demonstrations in Portland, Oregon persist and have increased in size as many join in rejecting the use and violence of federal forces and the complete lack of accountability for their actions. The federal forces were sent June 29 and have continued to intervene, using tear gas indiscriminately without warning, beating two street medics, a veteran and others with nightsticks, and using lethal rubber bullets and pepper spray against journalists. At least one protester was shot in the face with a rubber bullet and hospitalized with a fractured skull. Tear gas has been used nightly, literally fogging the downtown area, despite a federal court order -- won by demonstrators in June -- banning the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

Actions in Portland have persisted for 58 days as of July 25, including many of more than 10,000 people in May, joining millions across the U.S. demanding justice for the racist police killing of George Floyd and now again thousands daily demanding federal forces get out of Portland and the rights of all be protected.

On July 17 viral videos showed federal forces in unmarked vans kidnapping protesters off the streets, as well as of them beating protesters with batons and another of the tear gassing of a peaceful protest without warning.

On July 18 dozens of moms came out and linked arms, positioning themselves between the heavily armed federal forces and the youth and others demonstrating. They too were tear gassed and assaulted and then they came back in even larger numbers on July 19. Said a mom representing the views of many, "We're alongside the fence telling them: 'Feds go home, the moms are here.'" The Moms are saying, "You're not gonna hurt our kids." They have become known as The Wall of Moms and chapters are now forming in cities across the country to assist in strengthening the organized resistance. The Moms are also calling on the federal forces to not follow illegal orders, chanting, "Don't Shoot Your Mother."

A large group of fathers, known as Leaf Blowers Against Tear Gas, also joined in. They used garden leaf blowers to help disperse the tear gas and blow it back toward the federal forces. As one said, "Everyone knows a leaf blower is the tool dads use to clean up messes."

The more the police take over the role of judge, jury and executioner, the more they engage in actions which verge on war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also inhibit freedom of the press and assembly. This angers many, bringing people who have not come out before to the demonstrations. 

The federal forces deployed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) include a special elite squad from Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, (BORTAC) commonly used for highly dangerous and violent missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. BORTAC uses snipers and flash bang grenades, which stun all those in range and can cause deafness, severe burns and sever limbs. Both have been used in Portland.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is also present, as is the Federal Protective Service, which usually protects federal buildings. U.S. Marshals are also involved and various others. All are generally clothed in the same military-style fatigues, heavily armed and operating without identifying badges or jackets and without name tags.

"Snatch and grab" operations are also taking place. This police tactic, practised by U.S. Homeland Security during the 2010 G20 in Toronto, consists of a dual process of intelligence gathering and target extraction.

"In Portland, Oregon, federal agents in military fatigues have for several days been patrolling the streets amid ongoing protests about police brutality. These forces, employed by the Department of Homeland Security, have snatched people off the streets of the city, refused to identify themselves, and detained people without charges. Ostensibly, they are present to protect federal buildings from protesters. In practice, they seem to be acting on a much wider mandate, either to suppress protests or (more cynically) to provoke confrontation on behalf of a flailing White House that sees it as electorally beneficial," writes David A. Graham in The Atlantic.

DHS specifically formed the Protecting American Communities Task Force following Trump's executive order of June 26. The order makes it a felony to deface or remove federal statues -- currently a main means of protest against government racism and glorification of confederate generals and slave owners. DHS officials have said they expect the "unrest" across the country to escalate at least through the November election.

While protection of federal buildings, like courthouses, is being used to justify the intervention, it is clear the aim is to further suppress resistance and terrorize cities while also imposing federal control of policing over state and local forces. In many ways Portland is a live exercise for Trump, testing the readiness of DHS forces to carry out unjust and illegal orders, the response of state and local officials, and the resilience of demonstrators. In Portland and throughout the U.S. the forces fighting for change which ends racism, police killings, brutality and impunity, for justice, equality and security, have answered loud and clear that they are determined and undaunted by attempts of local and federal forces to suppress their protest movement.

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 27 - July 25, 2020

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Security in the U.S. Lies in the People's Defence of the Rights of All: People in Portland, Oregon Fight Trump's Imposition of Federal Forces to Suppress Protests


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