Human rights groups, activists, and local politicians are decrying what appears to be the Trump administration’s latest tactic to crush nationwide protests that erupted in late May over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
Anonymous masked federal agents in military uniforms jump out of unmarked minivans, abducting seemingly random people on the street in Portland, frightening new viral videos show. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC have been sent to the city to tamp down of 49 days of continuous demonstrations against racist police brutality. The move appears to be the Trump administration’s latest tactic to crush the nationwide protests that erupted in late May over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
Is it happening in any part of Central, South America?
It's Portland, USA. https://t.co/U2mpTloyd6
— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) July 17, 2020
One video shows individuals in battle fatigues pull up beside a small group of people on a deserted Portland street, arresting one man without identifying themselves or saying anything and putting him into the back of a minivan. “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, who has been working on issues of police brutality on protestors for weeks. “It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” he said, adding that he found the new events “terrifying.”
Repressive tactics have increased since Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf began involving himself and his department in the protests, with federal agents firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators. Homeland Security has justified its invasion, claiming that Portland has been “under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property.” The DHS claims that “violent anarchists” have wrecked the city, although the examples of destruction they give, such as graffiti and throwing rocks, appear trifling in comparison to abduction. Wolf himself arrived in Portland recently, declaring that, “Our men and women in uniform are patriots. We will never surrender to violent extremists on my watch.”
Wolf’s actions have received strong condemnation from demonstrators, human rights groups, and even local politicians who have unequivocally told federal agents to leave. Mayor of Portland Ted Wheeler claimed that, “This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House. It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now,” adding that the city neither needed nor wanted their help. Local congressman Earl Blumenauer was similarly forthright, placing the blame for the violence on government forces. “Chad Wolf just arrived in Portland. Here’s my message: go home Chad and take your unlawful DHS agents with you. The Trump admin has no place occupying and inciting violence in our community,” he tweeted late last night.
The demonstrators can also count on the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, who issued a statement reading, “Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland are being assaulted — shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, repeatedly tear gassed — by uninvited and unwelcome federal officers. We won’t rest until these federal officers are gone.”
A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump’s secret police. Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 16, 2020
The “shot in the head” comment refers to the case of Donavan LaBella, a 26-year-old protester shot outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland on Saturday. LaBella was holding a speaker over his head when police shot him in the face at close range with a rubber bullet. Video shows him instantly collapse on the street. Even as others retrieve his body, a large pool of blood is already noticeable where he fell. LaBella’s mother confirmed he survived the incident, but that he needed facial reconstruction surgery, with doctors inserting a titanium plate into his head.
If you've been shrieking about tyranny over masks and lockdowns but you're fine with masked anonymous feds invading Portland and kidnapping protesters into unmarked vans, you have replaced your brain with a political party.
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) July 17, 2020
Portland has been a hotspot of protest since the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 and has seen seven weeks of nightly demonstrations. The Trump administration decided to confront the protests with force rather than negotiate or co-opt them, the president infamously suggesting the National Guard should shoot any “looters.” A recent poll found that two-thirds of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Thus, it is unlikely that the new escalation of violence will win the president many new supporters, something he may need come November’s election.
Feature photo | Police stand as protesters gather during a demonstration, July 16, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Beth Nakamura | The Oregonian via AP
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.