July 21, 2020

Federal Riot Police in Portland

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There is over 50 years of research on violence and protest dating back to three federal commissions formed in 1967 and 1970. All three concluded that efforts fail when the police escalate violence and use it to get demonstrators to do what they want, and produce the very violence they were supposed to prevent. Just because there are protests that are easy to compare on a graph, that doesn’t mean they are without information.

Federal police used tear gas against some protesters who had placed a torn-down fence around a plywood door that covered the entrance to the federal courthouse. Federal police and local officers moved in to clear the street and make arrests after protesters threw bottles and metal parts at police, Portland Police Department said. Portland police declared the rally illegal, saying the protesters had stacked themselves on the fence and then fired firecrackers at the Justice Center.

Attorney General William Barr has dispatched a specialized team of federal agents to help control protests in Washington, D.C., and other cities across the United States, according to a Justice Department statement. Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send a team of riot police to the capital and Miami to help local authorities respond to the protests there, and the FBI has set up a command post at the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, the city’s largest city. The attorney general also sent an FBI hostage rescue team on Sunday to “assist authorities in demonstrations in and around Washington,” the official said, adding that the presence of federal authorities in both cities is to be “maximized” on Monday evening.

President Donald Trump has denigrated the demonstrations, and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called the protesters “lawless anarchists” during a visit to the city on Thursday. Late Saturday, protesters broke into a building, set it on fire and set a dumpster alight, police said. The fire at the Portland Police Association building was extinguished a short time later, Portland police said on Twitter.

With aggressive language and actions by federal officials, the unrest has frustrated some who say the message of peaceful protesters in the city is being drowned out by a small cadre of violent activists.

Since the demonstrations against police violence began on 28 May, many of the night-time protests have ended in police violence and arrests. Portland police said officers intervened after protesters threw projectiles at them, ignited firecrackers and blocked the door to Multnomah County’s Justice Center with a fence. Federal police were among the first to use force or tear gas to disperse the protesters. The office said it did not use tear gas, but it was involved in efforts to disperse the protesters.

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