Sunday Commentary: The Federal Government Leaves and Portland Predictably Calms Down

For the last few weeks we have heard an excuse as to why federal agents had to be moved into Portland.  But people on the ground said something very different—that things were calming down in Portland after weeks of protest and that the influx of federal agents and their response to protests inflamed the situation.

Governor Kate Brown has repeatedly referred to the federal officers as “an occupying force” and demanded that they withdraw and let state and local police handle the protests.

That finally happened late last week and the situation has begun to calm down.

The Oregonian reports: “Since federal officers have stopped their nightly tear gassing of the crowds, protest leaders attempted to shift the tenor downtown – away from the block around the courthouse and back to broader issues of injustice and police brutality faced by Black Americans.”

On Friday, the paper reported, “By 10:30 p.m., the crowd had grown beyond 2,000 people. The atmosphere remained calm even as more people gathered in front of the federal courthouse fence, the sight of nightly clashes with federal officers.

“The crowd grew after the Justice Center rally ended around 10:40 p.m. The mothers group who gathered there earlier tied balloons to the fence.  By 11 p.m., there were few signs, if any, of destruction or actions that have drawn police out in the past, such as blinking lights, lasers, fireworks and objects hurled over the fence. Chants and drum beats filled the air. Police kept away.”

Rev. E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP, said Portlanders were coming out regularly for months to protest in support of Black lives.

“Our people have made some noise. Our people have let the world know that we are here. We’ve interrupted the flow of the White House. We made such a big noise, that they had to send federal troops,” he said. “And then we got co-opted, then we got tear gassed, then we got hit with rubber bullets.”

In the downtown area the past two nights saw “relative calm,” at least downtown.  Oregon State Police rather than federal troops have provided the security.  The state troopers have had little presence outside of the courthouse and “have not deployed tear gas or shot impact munitions at the crowd.”

That contrasts with recent weeks, where the federal officers would gas crowds on a nightly basis.

Here is Rooman Mendoza’s video of police from Monday night hitting protesters with tear gas…

“The energy has definitely changed,” said Captain Travis Gullberg of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.  “We’re very appreciative. We’re all trying to de-escalate.”

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at an NAACP rally told the crowd that they were going to look at the police budget and develop another round of cuts.

She told the paper that she was “overjoyed” at the declared departure of federal officers from Portland.

“They were an occupying brutal terrorist group that was attacking our community every single night,” she said. “I am cautiously optimistic but I think we should remind Portlanders the Portland police were doing the exact same tactics long before federal goons showed up.”

Those echoed some of the words of the governor from earlier this week.

Governor Brown said, “These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community. Beginning Thursday, all Customs and Border Protection and ICE officers will leave downtown Portland, and shortly thereafter will begin going home.”

“After discussions with the Vice President and administration officials this week, the federal government has agreed to my demand and will withdraw these officers from Portland. They will also clean up the Courthouse, removing the graffiti,” Governor Brown said.

She continued: “The local Oregon officers of the Oregon State Police will provide protection for free speech and the security of the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service. A limited contingent of federal officials, who act as building security year-round, will remain and will stay focused on the interior of the U.S. Courthouse.”

“I have grown increasingly concerned at the nightly confrontation between local community members and federal officers. We need to recognize that the protests in Portland are not solely about the federal presence. They started before federal agents descended on our city and they will likely continue after they leave,” she added.

All was not calm on Saturday night.  Police declared an unlawful assembly and tweeted, “People in this unlawful assembly have thrown glass bottles at Portland Police and directed lasers at them. Anyone who does not disperse may be subject to force or arrest.”

However, pretty quickly by 1:30 the area was cleared and the few hundred people near the justice center remained peaceful.

What we have seen from the federal government is a good example of how not to manage protests.  Nightly attacks of tear gas and munitions did not solve the problem.  If anything it escalated the problem—it spread the protests to other cities and it attracted more people to the protests, so instead of several hundred people, the crowds swelled to several thousand.

The original Black Lives Matter protesters complained because the influx of the federal troops shifted the focus of the protests from BLM to Trump.

Brendan Curran, minister at the United Church of Christ reportedly “told a group there who were protesting President Donald Trump to quiet down and focus on Black Lives Matter.

“It puts a bee in my bonnet when people don’t stay on message,” he said.

Many said that the destruction happening in the city started when the focus of the protests shifted from BLM to federal law enforcement.

“All of a sudden the purpose of the whole thing was gone. It took the sight off of what the purpose really was,” he said.

Senator Merkley spoke at Saturday NAACP rally and invoked the words of John Lewis.

“Good trouble, good trouble,” Merkley said. “We’re making good trouble now, and we need a lot more good trouble.”

Merkley spoke on ending mass incarceration in the United States, and also about a measure he has introduced, unofficially dubbed the “No Secret Police in America Act.”

Senator Merkley introduced SB 4049 which would “limit the use of Federal law enforcement officers for crowd control.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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41 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

    “Our people have made some noise. Our people have let the world know that we are here. We’ve interrupted the flow of the White House. We made such a big noise, that they had to send federal troops,” he said. “And then we got co-opted, then we got tear gassed, then we got hit with rubber bullets.”

    If “their people” hadn’t tried to destroy the Federal courthouse there wouldn’t have been any tear gas or rubber bullets.  It’s on the rioters, not the Federal agents.  Nice try at the spin though.

  2. Ron Oertel

    The intensified protests (more recently) were about Trump, not George Floyd.

    The federal agents were viewed as a proxy for Trump.

    What hasn’t actually been reported is the reason that Trump sent them in. Were they, in fact, damaging federal property before agents arrived? Did Trump send them in simply to restore order, in general? Or, did he do so out of political reasons?

    Or, all three?

    Pretty tough to get an honest answer via media, these days.

    1. Keith Olsen

      The spin coming from the media (Vanguard) is that it’s the Fed’s fault for trying to protect Federal property.  Any fair minded person knows it’s the protesters fault for trying to destroy Federal property.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Keith:  They had “no choice” but to destroy property (and engage in violence), when law enforcement showed up in force.  It was “out of their hands”, at that point.  😉

        I don’t know if the protests (and associated problems) were dying down prior to that point, but it sounds like it hadn’t totally dissipated. Perhaps not even close.

        There are people (if you let them) who will essentially never leave, and will continue to try to disrupt and cause damage. And at times – it leads to dangerous situations, as well.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Ron, I think this is a losing issue for the Democrats to try to push the “it’s the Fed’s fault” when it comes to riots and destruction in Portland and Seattle.  But try they will.

        2. Ron Oertel

          It’s all wrapped up in political spin on both sides (from what I can see).

          But, there does seem to be a core group of people in cities, who have essentially devote their lives to causing disruption and chaos around protests.  Which usually have similar themes.

          A reason that some move out of those cities.  The folks who just want to be able to live normal lives without daily disruption.

          There’s other reasons, as well. Permanent homeless encampments (that were never allowed in prior decades), crime, etc.

          Others take this up these issues as a permanent “cause”, and seem to get personal meaning out of it. With the daily, semi-permanent protesters at the extreme end of that.

        3. Bill Marshall

           And at times – it leads to dangerous situations, as well.

          Which POTUS loves… has already threatened to insert feds in other ‘blue’ cities, as a show of force to bolster his newest gambit… the ‘law and order theme’… his other areas of ‘performance’, have been ‘limp’, at best… he should try to follow Dole’s advice… try the ‘little blue pill’… just might ‘stiffen’ his poll #’s…

    2. Bill Marshall

      The federal agents were viewed as a proxy for Trump.

      What hasn’t actually been reported is the reason that Trump sent them in. 

      Yes, they were indeed proxies for POTUS.

      The reason that they were sent in, go exactly to that… to bolster POTUS’s re-election campaign on a “law and order” theme… Covid response and the economy weren’t working towards that goal… didn’t work out any better than the other two, so they ‘cut their losses’.  Simple, actually…

  3. Keith Olsen

    Maybe David wants to rewrite this article?

    The riots haven’t predictably calmed down after the Feds left.
    Riot declared as protesters set fire to Portland police union offices

    PORTLAND, Ore. — A fire inside a police union building led authorities in Portland, Oregon, to declare a riot and force protesters away from the offices as violent demonstrations continue in the city that had hoped for calm after federal agents withdrew more than a week ago.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/08/09/portland-police-protesters-fire-union-offices/3329837001/

     

     

  4. Keith Olsen

    80 days now into the Portland riots and they still rage on.

    Why no follow up article from the Vanguard admitting they were wrong, things haven’t “predictably calmed down”.

    Some threw objects at police cars in the parking lot of the building and spray-painted over security cameras. Others shined green lasers at officers’ eyes and pelted police with softball-sized “river rocks” and glass bottles.

    https://www.foxnews.com/us/portland-riots-911-calls

    1. Ron Oertel

      That’s a straight-out assault, and reminds me of what happened to Reginald Denny (LA Riots).

      Hope they make a similar arrest, for this.

      I find this stuff quite depressing.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Police have ID’ed the suspect.  They are now looking for him.

        https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/police-id-suspect-in-beating-near-portland-protest/ar-BB1878rx

        There was a group of rioters that also beat up on a trans woman and another female the same night.  The man that got beat badly was reportedly trying to defend her.

        “They were physically assaulting her like crazy, so when they were doing that … he actually started defending her, and then they shifted their attention on him” 

        https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/man-who-was-beaten-by-mob-in-portland-was-reportedly-helping-transgender-woman-before-the-attack

        These are the supposed peaceful protesters that have calmed down after the feds left.

         

  5. Keith Olsen

    Another night of what’s becoming “predictable” rioting in Portland:

    Protesters in Portland broke out the windows of a county government building, sprayed lighter fluid inside and set a fire in demonstration that started Tuesday night and ended Wednesday morning with clashes with police, officials said.

    Portland officers late Tuesday declared a riot outside the county building after demonstrators started fires in dumpsters, used rocks to smash first floor windows and tossed burning material inside that set the fire that set off fire alarms and the building’s sprinkler system, police said in a statement early Wednesday.

    https://www.chron.com/news/article/Police-declare-riot-in-Portland-amid-ongoing-15494359.php

  6. Keith Olsen

    As the riots rage on businesses are suffering and in many cases leaving Portland.

    “We are aware that it is happening. Businesses are leaving,” Hoan said. “We need to start to turn the corner now, so that this sort of irreparable damage does not last.”
    Hoan told KATU news the boarded up businesses make the area seem closed and unsafe, neither of which is true he said.
    “You have blocks and blocks of plywood. You have graffiti. You have an accumulation of damages that are un-repaired, an ongoing perception that coming downtown is not a safe place,” Hoan said.

    https://katu.com/news/on-your-side/downtown-portland-business-owners-feel-negative-impacts-of-continued-nightly-protests

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t have anyone up there right now. You clearly didn’t read the link to the Washington Post story, people I have talked to have said that the media portrayal right now is not all that accurate.

        2. Keith Olsen

          You just have to watch the WashingtonPost video to see what was going on.  In fact I’ve read other reports that say ANTIFA and BLM initiated the attack on the Pro Police rally group.

          I have an acquaintance that lives in Portland and he tells me it hasn’t calmed down much if any and it’s terrible what they’re doing to downtown Portland and its businesses.

          1. David Greenwald

            What seems to have happened is things were calming down, the feds came in, all of a sudden attention was focused on Portland, troublemakers flowed into the city – both sides – and even after the feds left, the problems remain. Regardless I can’t cover this from afar, so if I don’t have someone on the ground, our reports will be limited to press releases.

        3. Keith Olsen

          Not what you wrote in this article, you wrote:

          The Federal Government Leaves and Portland Predictably Calms Down

          It never calmed down.  You were wrong.  You tried to carry on the leftist narrative that the feds were the problem.

          1. David Greenwald

            Actually it did calm down at the time the I wrote it. It ramped back up quickly however. The feds were absolutely the problem – they exploded the situation that was calming down.

        4. Keith Olsen

          LOL, so it calmed down because the feds left but it ramped back up and it’s still the feds fault.  How convenient.  Do you even hear yourself.

          Or maybe I should say, “Are you this naive?”
          Where did I hear that?

      1. Keith Olsen

        Big story in the Washington Post on the Proud Boys and the police just watching –

        I love how you and the Post try to frame this.  It was more like a group of anti-rioters which included some Proud Boys fought with a group BLM and ANTIFA protesters while the police watched.

         

  7. Bill Marshall

    LOL, so it calmed down after the feds left but it ramped back up and it’s still the feds fault.  How convenient.  Do you even hear yourself.

    Are you familiar with the term agent-provocateur?  Could it be that your “anti-rioter” group is part of the POTUS ‘base’ (and baser than most), and trying to provoke under a ‘law and order’ theme (funnier than hell, given the PPB behaviors!) to show we need a “law and order” POTUS?  Am thinking that is at least a 40% probability… I wonder…

    Can easily imagine you’d support those efforts, deny that is possible that POTUS/, real conservatives, and Republicans would find them “useful idiots”…

  8. Keith Olsen

    What’s this, Day 90 of the Portland riots?

    Last night the protesters rioted at the Portland mayor Ted Wheeler’s condo and looted businesses and set fires with looted furniture.

    A group began by gathering in the North Park Blocks near Northwest Park Avenue and Northwest Couch Street. About 10:00p.m., a march began in the street to the area of Northwest 10th Avenue and Northwest Glisan Street. Some in the crowd began lighting off what appeared to be illegal commercial-grade fireworks. A fire was lit in a garbage can in the street. Some windows were broken and walls were defaced with graffiti (photo). In an attempt to deescalate, officers stayed out of sight and monitored the situation from a distance. However, the vandalism and burning continued. People were seen burglarizing a business, taking furniture out, and throwing it on the fires in the street (photo).

    https://www.kxl.com/demonstrators-riot-outside-his-home-on-mayor-ted-wheelers-birthday/

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      What’s this, Day 90 of the Keith O comments on the Portland riots? [7:13 post]….

      I expect this until Nov 3… when we’ll see if the “law & order”, provocateur-in-chief POTUS wins, or, failing that, declares the election invalid.  The vote by mail thingy…

      To up the ante, POTUS plans to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin today… and defend the guy who killed two, wounded another, after his mom drove him from Illinois, knowing he had a loaded gun… just protecting property in Kenosha, and/or self-defense… yeah, right.  Law and order…

       

        1. Ron Oertel

          I was waiting for you to go back and make that comment!  😉

          In fact, I had expected a separate article regarding the large number of Trump supporters who came to Portland.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Something along the lines of these rabble-rousers “causing others” to commit crimes.

          Though sometimes, I’m not sure who is committing what.

          The only thing I’m sure of is that I’d try to avoid it.

        3. Keith Olsen

          What’s hilarious Ron is a group called the Patriot Prayer showed up in Portland and they were labelled as pro Trump right wing agitators while ANTIFA and BLM along with the other anarchists were only labelled as counter protesters by the mainstream media even though they’ve been rioting in Portland for 90 days.

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          Is that right?  I would think that the Trump group would be called “counter-protesters”.

          One man’s “freedom fighter” is another man’s “terrorist”, I guess.

          But, it was kind of interesting to see that there are still strong Trump supporters in this country.

          If he somehow wins again (as unlikely as that seems), it will be even more interesting to see the reaction. Especially if he loses the popular vote, but wins in the electoral college (again).

          For that matter, it will be kind of interesting to see what happens if he loses.

          Honestly, I don’t see why people get so worked-up about national politics. Well, with the exception that Trump seems to go out of his way to create divisiveness (in a manner not seen before at that level).

          Still, I don’t think concerns about police (for example) can be entirely attributed to him. I think we’d be seeing this anyway, right now.

  9. Keith Olsen

    Another night, another riot in Portland.  100 straight days of protests/riots and no indication of things calming down after the feds left.

    Hundreds of people gathered for rallies and marches against police violence and racial injustice Saturday night in Portland, Oregon, as often violent nightly demonstrations that have happened for 100 days since George Floyd was killed showed no signs of ceasing.
    Gasoline bombs thrown in the street during a march sparked a large fire and prompted police to declare a riot.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/portland-protests-not-abating-100-041239347.html

  10. Keith Olsen

    While after a short respite during the fires and smoke, the Portland riots are picking up steam again.

    Businesses and homeowners who are flying the American flag are the targets. They threatened to burn down the house with a flag as the protest went into neighborhoods.

    200 demonstrators marched through Portland on Saturday night smashing windows and spraying graffiti on businesses. A restaurant, a Starbucks and a bank were targeted according to the Portland Police Dept.

     

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