PORTLANDAS, Ore. – In Portland, the lives of the protesters have been changed as they face federal agents at night.
“We got out of here wearing a T-shirt and spinning Hula-Hoops and other things. They started gassing us, so we went back with respirators, they started shooting us, so we came back with vests, and they started looking our heads, so we started wearing helmets, and now they call us terrorists, ”said Portland Mac Smif, a local black organizer. . “What is it escalating? It’s not us. “
The protests have been going on in Portland for two months, but the situation intensified when federal agents ̵1; from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshal’s Office – were deployed in the city beginning the weekend of July 4th.
Since then, agents have used tear gas, sprayed pepper and fired into the crowd, sometimes without a doubt, “less lethal” ammunition. The largest number of protesters in the city took part last weekend, when more than 5,000 people gathered in front of and around Mark Hatfield’s U.S. courthouse, heavily guarded by federal agents.
The nights turned into weeks and months, protests unfolded. The mother’s wall turned out last week adorned with yellow and holding sunflowers, connecting arms to form a physical barrier separating the protesters – some of their children – from federal officials. The next night, they were escorted to the Parents ’Wall, trying leaf blowers to blow tear gas back to federal officials.
Not knowing if they will be warned until the tear gas fills the air, some protesters come to prepare gas masks and sprays filled with eye wash.
At one point, a marine veteran and protester in India, Wynne, thought it started raining in the middle of the night as they wore their mask. Turns out it was the density of what peppers sprayed by federal agents seemed to be.
“My skin started to burn. Federal officials are escalating sooner than we are, and they are escalating so much that it is not necessary, ”Wynne said. “I know crowd management tactics, and that’s not what’s going on. No need to put 20 or 30 tear gas canisters … And they don’t care who gasifies them. “
Armed gun agents with large riot gear have been involved in the reception of protesters who have designed their own direct protection and shields, including helmets and body armor marked Press, following the adoption of a restraining order preventing federal agents from arresting or attacking journalists. . observers.
Black protester Jayla Lindseth is urging people to come to the protests with at least a few other friends who can help protect each other and “arrest.”
When I say lift the arrest, I mean if you see your friend resorting [by officers], grab them back, ”Lindset advised. “We are fighting for change here.”
While many have proclaimed a nonviolent response to the force used by federal agents, others are fighting fire and projectile-style fireworks over a fence erected by agents around the federal courthouse.
Yes, there are people who throw stones and bricks, water bottles and fireworks. But they are a small, small part of the people protesting here, ”said Paul Swortz, one of the marine veterans standing near the Veterinary Border. “It’s a handful of thousands of people, and you’re not judging thousands of people by a handful.”
The Portland Transportation Bureau on Tuesday issued a restraining and settlement order urging federal agents to remove the fence, claiming it was built illegally and that it was obstructing the city’s public rights to drive. The agency added that it has already begun to assess a maximum fine of $ 500 for every 15 minutes a fence hampers a street, which has already paid nearly $ 200,000 in fines.
The Trump administration deployed an unsolicited and apparently unwelcome federal response to the city to repel demonstrations and protests declaring police brutality when George Floyd was assassinated while Minneapolis police were arrested.
Agents wearing uniform dark emblems, which make it difficult to identify which agency they work for, have been accused of being abusive in the presence of demonstrators in a lawsuit filed by several non-profit organizations, including Protect Democracy, Don’t Shoot Portland. Moms Wall, filed on behalf of the protesters on Monday.
The complaint alleges that federal agents went far beyond their bounds, not only in defending federal property, using pepper balls, explosives and other similar tactics.
The presence of federal agents has been heavily criticized not only by protesters but also by Portland Mayor Teddy Wheeler, who has repeatedly asked Trump to remove them.
This week, Wheeler called for an “immediate meeting” with the Homeland Security Department to discuss a “ceasefire.”
Officials from the Homeland Security Department did not return a request to comment on that meeting.
Both the Department of Homeland Security and the Marshall Service have said they are already identifying officers who can replace or supplement agents in Portland.
It was known Wednesday that there are at least 114 federal officials in the city, filed by a court-appointed court.
Attorney General Willliam Barr also discussed the use of federal force in Portland during his testimony ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of the House Judiciary Committee.
“After George Floyd’s death, brutal rioters and anarchists seized legitimate protests to render senseless contempt and destruction of innocent victims,” he said. “The current situation in Portland is a clear example.”
Barr added that they had to increase the number of federal representatives in the city in an effort to “protect federal functions and federal buildings.”
Meanwhile, passions are becoming more resolute for protesters who have demonstrated for days and even weeks.
“I’m” tired of it. I am very tired. I lack sleep because I’m a single mom, I work full time, I have to come and spend the night with you because I can’t stand on my street and say, “Black lives matter,” a woman wearing a yellow T-shirt with her signature ” said Monday night. “Black lives are important, so we are here. We are not here for some kind of building. We don’t care about the building, we don’t care about your stupid fence, we don’t care about the lives of blacks. “
Maura Barrett and David Douglas reported from Portland and Safia Samee Ali from Chicago.