Democrats have excused and emboldened them, and they’re now claiming the real problem is that federal law enforcement has intervened to restore order. Maybe the feds should leave and let the city put out its own fires.
Peaceful protests broke out in Portland in late May in response to the killing of George Floyd, but they’ve quickly escalated to rioting and vandalism. Demonstrators have launched large fireworks at law enforcement, shone laser pointers at their eyes, thrown fecal matter, and assaulted at least one officer with a hammer.
The Department of Homeland Security reports that rioters are armed with rifles, tasers, slingshots and sledgehammers and have committed multiple acts of arson. On July 3 someone firebombed the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, and scarcely a day passes without graffiti and property damage.
If radicals feel emboldened, that’s because Portland has long allowed political violence to occur with impunity. In recent years dueling marches by Antifa and far-right activists have descended into brawling, and too often police have done little to stop it. Assaults have gone unpunished, including a violent attack on journalist Andy Ngo. Portland Police admit that they sometimes simply walk away from protesters, strategically disengage.
In early June Mayor Ted Wheeler told police to refrain from using tear gas unless there’s “violence that threatens life safety.” Federal Judge Marco Hernandez also issued an injunction prohibiting the use of tear gas “to disperse crowds where there is no or little risk of injury.” Andon June 30, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation that bans tear gas unless police declare a riot.
Enter federal agents, who face no such restrictions on crowd-control tactics. After a June 26 executive order by President Trump, officers from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Protective Service were dispatched to Portland to safeguard federal property.
“Mr. President, this is an attack on our democracy,” Mayor Wheeler tweeted on July 17, along with a New York Times headline claiming “federal agents unleash militarized crackdown on Portland.” Nonsense. Federal law clearly allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to dispatch agents to protect federal property and arrest those who threaten it.
Critics have complained that federal agents obscure their identity and operate out of unmarked cars. Officers legitimately fear being identified by name and harassed at home, and their superiors have sometimes allowed them to obscure nameplates while still displaying their patches and badge numbers.
Meanwhile, protesters routinely dress in identical “black bloc” attire and obscure their faces. They’ve made a habit of swarming officers who attempt an arrest, creating chaos, and helping the suspect disappear. Unmarked cars help federal agents surveil the scene without attracting unwanted attention, and they also enable law enforcement to complete arrests by choosing a safe and opportune moment to make their move. Those arrested are read their Miranda rights and booked as usual.
We understand Mr. Trump’s desire to restore order, but he’s also saving Democrats from themselves. State and local Democrats will blame federal intervention for any and all disorder, deflecting attention from their own failures. The media will echo whatever they say. Progressives run Portland, Chicago, New York and other cities now experiencing a surge of violence. If they want to indulge the mayhem, then let them live with the consequences.