The top federal prosector in Oregon, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, said Monday that the federal agents aggressively policing protesters in Portland would remain in the city until the "attacks on federal property and personnel" cease. Oregon officials say the presence and shock-and-awe tactics of the federal agents are the main fuel for those attacks, and federal law enforcement officials privately concede they have a point, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
The nightly protests against racism and police violence in downtown Portland had dwindled to about 100 people before President Trump sent in federal agents over the July 4 weekend. The protests grew again after U.S. Marshals, ostensibly there to protect Portland's federal courthouse, shot 26-year-old protester Donavan La Bella in the head, fracturing his skull, and they exploded after news broke that anonymous militarized federal agents were detaining people on the street in unmarked vans. Thousands now gather nightly in Portland, and similar protests have been reinvigorated in other cities.
"Anytime you shoot someone in the face and beat them with a baton, it's going to be criticized," one federal law enforcement official told OBP. "That's not a controversial statement." Another told OBP, "Crowds were very small and the incident with La Bella." Still, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals confirmed Monday that about 100 new deputies have been lined up for deployment in Portland, either to bolster the current force or replace exhausted officers.
The harsh crackdown and vilification of protesters in Portland may end up helping Trump politically, "but as a policing tactic, it has failed to suppress the protests," The Washington Post notes. "The escalation has been followed by larger, better-equipped, and more-aggressive crowds, and — as the new reinforcements showed — it exhausted federal resources before it exhausted the protesters."
"Every time we go out into this, we get better at it," Gregory McKelvey, a community organizer in Portland, tells the Post. "When a flash bang first goes off in front of you, you run. But when you realize that one went off right in front of you and nothing happened to you, you're less likely to run the next time." In a bit of circular logic, law enforcement officials say they need even more people on the ground in Portland "to counter those increasingly sophisticated tactics" employed by protesters, OPB reports.