Update (July 23, 2020 ): After condemning President Donald Trump for sending federal agents to Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler joined demonstrators on the frontline of a protest against police brutality on Wednesday night.
In video clips captured by Mike Baker of The New York Times, Wheeler experienced the hazardous effects of tear gas firsthand and labeled the tactic an “egregious overreaction” by law enforcement officials. While wearing protective goggles, Wheeler said the use of tear gas is “urban warfare” and that it has done more to provoke violence than de-escalate it.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says the tear gas stings. Says egregious overreaction from feds. Calls it urban warfare. pic.twitter.com/hrRICiNGHn— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 23, 2020
While the mayor has called for federal agents to leave the city and spoke about his intention to collaborate with activists to promote change, some of the protesters say Wheeler joined the protest as a photo opportunity.
Wheeler was booed by demonstrators who were also demanding his resignation, reports Yahoo News.
Sean Smith, who has been active at the protests for weeks, told The Times “[Wheeler] should probably be out here every night.”
The demonstrations in Portland have persisted for 55 consecutive days, outlasting many of the protests that grew out of widespread outrage over police brutality following the killing of George Floyd.
As Blavity previously reported, the Trump administration is also planning to deploy federal agents to Chicago this week.
Original (July 20, 2020): Protesters in Portland are being targeted by unidentified federal agents, and state and local authorities are speaking out.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the agents are accused of driving unmarked minivans and snatching people off the street.
Mark Pettibone and his friend Conner O’Shea gave their accounts of what happened while they were heading home after protesting on Wednesday night. In an interview with OPB, O’Shea said he was confused when people in camouflage pulled up in front of him and his friend.
“I see guys in camo,” O’Shea said. “Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, ‘Oh s**t. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.’”
According to OPB, federal law enforcement officers have been driving unmarked vehicles and detaining protesters in Portland since at least last Tuesday. At least 13 protesters in the city have been charged by federal officers for alleged crimes that haven't been clarified.
Pettibone was among the protesters who were arrested and released. The Portland protester and his friend believe they were targeted for simply wearing black clothes in the demonstration area.
“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” Pettibone said. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”
In a video sent to OPB, O'Shea narrated the scene as people were being detained.
“Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets,” he said in the video. “I didn’t do anything f**king wrong. I’m recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens.”
Pettibone said he was put in a holding cell at the federal courthouse, where officers read him his Miranda rights without ever telling him why he was arrested. The detained protester said he was released a short time later, but he has not been charged with any crimes and he doesn't know who arrested him.
The U.S. Marshals Service, however, said its officers didn't arrest Pettibone.
“All United States Marshals Service arrestees have public records of arrest documenting their charges. Our agency did not arrest or detain Mark James Pettibone,” the agency said in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was in Portland on Thursday.
“I offered @DHSgov support to help locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home. That’s just not going to happen on my watch,” Wolf said on FOX News.
“I offered @DHSgov support to help locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home. That’s just not going to happen on my watch.” pic.twitter.com/BW8UdbNZ9c— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 17, 2020
Wolf has referred to the demonstrators as a "violent mob" as well as "anarchists."
BBC News reported that the federal agents in Portland are part of a recently formed force made up of personnel from various departments, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S Marshals Service. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month to assign the agents, who are responsible for protecting monuments, memorials, statues and federal facilities. The Federal Protection Service, which has officers in Portland, was involved in detaining protesters, BBC News reported.
Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned Trump for sending federal agents to the city, OPB reported.
“Over the past week, President Trump has used our city as a staging ground to further his political agenda, igniting his base to cause further divisiveness,” Wheeler said at a press conference. “Mr. President, federal agencies should never be used as your own personal army.”