Federal Officers Snatch Portland Protesters Off Street and Into Unmarked Cars
“This is an actual threat to political speech: badegeless, nameless, masked federal officers assaulting, and snatching-up protesters in Portland.”
Federal agents in camo gear have been seen on the streets of Portland, Oregon pulling antiracism protesters off the street and into unmarked vehicles. Viral videos have shown men in camouflage gear grabbing protesters from the street and into an unmarked minivan.
Confrontations between Portland police, federal agents, and protesters have heated up over the last several nights as protesters continue to demonstrate against the police.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the federal officers have been seen on Portland’s streets in unmarked cars since July 14.
Many protesters have expressed concern about the nature of the federal agents’ actions. In a video taken on the ground, the agents have refused to identify themselves or explain why they are arresting individuals, drawing comparisons to kidnapping.
Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC have been deployed in Portland, but often have not displayed a badge or indicated what organization they represent.
These agencies have been deployed to protect federal property, but OPB reporting found that many arrested by the unidentified federal agents were not near federal property or linked to criminal activity.
Reports have also shown an increased police presence in recent days, with flashbangs deployed against protesters.
The increased intimidation tactics come as many in the right-wing press have begun to ring the bell about Portland protesters establishing an autonomous zone similar to Seattle’s now-gone CHAZ.
Local reports have documented some small attempts to occupy parks outside of federal buildings, but the police have quickly dispersed these protests. The police department has also been quick to declare protests unlawful assemblies.
Journalists on the ground have called into question the Portland Police Department’s justifications for shutting down protests and declaring unlawful assemblies. According to the police department, some protesters chanted to burn down a police precinct, but a journalist reporting on the ground called the report a lie.
Increased tension between police and protesters has been used as the justification to deploy more force on the street, often in what appears to be unlawful arrests.
Activist and educator Nate Bowling said, “this is an actual threat to political speech: badegeless, nameless, masked federal officers assaulting, and snatching-up protesters in Portland.”
Photos have also shown a military vehicle outside of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, adding to speculation of what the plans for Portland are.
Protesters and journalists have not been the only ones to speculate on the unmarked vehicles snatching up protesters in Portland. Oregon Governor Kate Brown accused President Donald Trump of deploying the officers as a political stunt.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the governor have both called on the federal government to remove federal officers from Portland’s streets, yet the unidentified federal officers continued to arrest protesters on Thursday night.
In a statement Governor Brown, said, “this political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The president is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
Acting head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, visited Portland yesterday to meet with federal law enforcement officers.
In a statement, Wolf condemned the “rampant long-lasting violence in Portland.” He continued, “the city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob… Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property.”
Wolf was extremely critical of local officials, but Governor Brown said she spoke to Wolf and asked him to remove the federal officials.
“Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa,” Brown said.