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Editorial: Federal agents inflamed Portland protests

Editorial: Federal agents inflamed Portland protests

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Dear federal agents deployed to protests in Portland: Get the hell out of town if you haven’t already. Better yet, leave Oregon altogether.

These thugs are making a chaotic and tense situation much worse in ways that would have seemed unfathomable in the land of the free just months ago.

Quite frankly, what has unfolded in Portland and the actions of these federal law enforcement officers — we use that term loosely due to their unconstitutional actions — should be frightening to every American.

We’re far past the realm of mere concern, because you’re being treated as the enemy if you disagree with the government.

We’re at the point where unidentified feds in unmarked vans are snatching people off the streets without due process.

We’re at the stage where our own government is shooting peaceful protesters and journalists in the head with “less lethal” rounds that cause severe injury.

You don’t have to look hard online to find serious discussions from reporters about the best helmets to wear to avoid trauma when they’re inevitably targeted. The head shots are a pattern, not an anomaly.

Look, it seems rather odd to us to point out that tear-gassing the non-violent “Wall of Moms” isn’t a good public relations move, nor is using a baton to forcefully and repeatedly massage the side of a U.S. Navy veteran who clearly wasn’t posing a threat.

All of these incidents have been caught on camera. There’s no denying them, except for perhaps with some Orwellian flourish.

To reiterate, federal officers aren’t wearing any identification, so they can’t easily be held accountable for their actions. (In contrast, police officers on mid-Willamette Valley SWAT teams wear name badges on their uniforms while they perform their dangerous duties.)

We will acknowledge that President Donald Trump has a point in sending agents to Portland. The city and the state of Oregon opened the door to this debacle by not taking a firmer stance against criminals amidst the protesters. There is a faction in the crowd near the federal courthouse that is consistently violent.

Again, we’ll defend your right to peaceful protest with our dying breath. The First Amendment remains the cornerstone of America’s greatness, if we still are to be called great.

Once violence and rioting occurs, however, authorities need to bring things under control, but do so without brutalizing peaceful demonstrators and observers. It’s a difficult problem, but that needs to be the goal.

Oregon law enforcement agencies who handled the protests had their own problems with overaggressive responses at times, including attacking reporters. At other times, their response was underwhelming and failed to stop damage to public and private property.

But the arrival of federal agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service dialed things up to 11. These weren’t individuals acting as public safety officers. They have effectively been counterprotesters sent in and blessed by the president, running around like bulls in a china shop. They were perpetrators of indiscriminate mayhem and violence.

With their actions, they’ve escalated the situation and endangered lives, and in doing so, they’ve galvanized more residents and encouraged them to join the protests.

President Trump has dumped more fuel on the fires he claims he wants to stop, and it all seems like another bizarre photo op in an effort to look tough on crime while displaying the power of the executive branch against the plebeian masses.

Thankfully, it appears federal agents are leaving soon, or at least pulling their inflammatory presence back from the courthouse area. There’s some confusion over the matter, which is unsurprising seeing as we’re dealing with statements from both Gov. Kate Brown and President Trump.

We’re also relieved to have seen more of an outcry lately from Black activists and other demonstrators against criminals who have infiltrated the protests to cause vandalism and throw rocks, flares and other projectiles at federal agents and local police.

The arrival of feds has become a distraction from the initial goal of the protests, and many non-violent demonstrators are now there in large part to voice their disapproval of the agents, their tactics and the gross miscalculation of the U.S. government.

Protesters must now refocus. The reason there have been nightly demonstrations the last two months in Portland is the quest for racial justice, because Black lives matter.


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