Shane Burley: If We Don’t Want Armed Feds Occupying Our Cities, We Must Hit the Streets

Truthout, July 27, 2020

On July 25, Day 58 of the continuous Portland, Oregon, Black Lives Matter protests, thousands of protesters swarmed the Justice Center located in the city’s downtown area. This was a crushing number of people, and they were joined by solidarity marches in other cities. Protesters pushed up against a fence that was raised around the federal buildings and anchored in cement blocks in an attempt to stop demonstrators from getting into the building as they had during previous nights. The vast majority of the crowd were wearing helmets, goggles and gas masks or respirators in anticipation of the violence these federal officers have become famous for using. Some were holding up umbrellas or shields to block the MK-9 pepper spray that the officers had been using against the demonstrators.

The police began firing off teargas canisters into the crowd as protesters shot back fireworks and blew the gas back toward the building with industrial kitchen fans and leaf blowers. Eventually, at 1:15 am, federal officers, in conjunction with the Portland Police, rushed the crowds as protesters breached the fence, blanketing the area with teargas and firing impact munitions that sent hundreds of protesters scrambling through the street of downtown Portland. The violence against protesters only continued to escalate, but they were largely unmoved, regrouping after the attacks only to continue the protests that have drawn international attention.

Nearly two months have come and gone as the Portland protests continue night after night. Starting at the end of May in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the demonstrations have completely altered the city and have set in a permanent protest culture, and demonstrations regularly pop up at different places throughout the city. They eventually all descend on the federal Justice Center in downtown Portland, which is now boarded up like a fortress after nearly 60 days of sustained confrontations.

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