In Portland, Oregon’s largest city, those demonstrations have raged for six weeks straight, and local businesses have reported $23 million in losses due to looting and rioting that have gripped its downtown area since the end of May.
Demonstrators have been seen lighting mattresses on fire and setting off fireworks in the streets.
Just this weekend, a federal officer protecting a closed courthouse was struck in the head and shoulder with a hammer as protesters attempted to break down the court’s door. The courthouse suffered an estimated $50,000 in damages, according to KGW.
Jacob Michael Gaines, 23, of Texas, was arrested for the assault on the officer.
Amid the unrest, federal officers were called into the city to protect federal properties including the Mark. O Hatfield Federal Courthouse, Pioneer Courthouse, the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building and Terry Schrunk Plaza.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deployed more than a half-dozen law enforcement agencies and departments, with officers from the U.S. Marshalls, the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection rotating protection services throughout the city.
However, the violence has no apparent end in sight, and it remains unclear who is responsible for helping organize and supply protesters as they continue to wreak havoc in the streets – most recently focusing on federal property.
Local officials have criticized federal law enforcement and even President Trump for the havoc. Meanwhile, one group of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist teens who call themselves the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front has used social media to organize throughout the city.
The Seattle Times reported the group uses social media to promote rallies, provide rioters with tactical advice and offer commentary on the gatherings that have led to clashes with police. Its goal is to upend the U.S. political system.
On an unverified Twitter page attributed to the group – which has amassed more than 21,000 flowers – shared a post on Monday that said: “The Feds and Portland Police are very quickly finding out that if they build a fortress and use literal siege tactics, the People will put their f---ing fortress under siege.”
Early Tuesday morning, the Portland Police Department – which is banned by a temporary federal court order from using tear gas unless they declare a riot – took to Twitter to declare the situation in the streets had once again devolved into a riot scenario outside the city’s police union headquarters. The city’s police bureau has declared a riot multiple times before federal officers showed up to assist.
The department warned those who refused to disperse would be subject to arrest, tear gas or impact weapons. It shared images of the objects thrown at officers – including paint, ball bearings, and glass bottles.
Last week, Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said an “agitator corps” of violent protesters were responsible for the vandalism and chaos in the city – which has been ready to reopen for weeks after the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Davis pledged support for the Black Lives Matter movement and its nonviolent protests, and condemned the separate group of dangerous and sophisticated vandals causing the “mayhem.”
“There’s a very big difference between protests and the kind of mayhem that we see every night,” he said. “You’re going to hear me make a lot of effort not to refer to what we’re talking about here as protests because protests and this are two different things.”
He said last week that more than 100 people – both city employees and the public – have sustained injuries throughout the demonstrations.
Among those injured was Donovan LaBella, 26, who collapsed to the ground unconscious and bleeding profusely from the head after he was hit by a less-lethal round outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
Video recorded by bystanders shows LaBella standing with both arms in the air holding a large speaker across the street from the courthouse when he was hit. His mother told Oregon Public Broadcasting that her son underwent surgery on Sunday after suffering facial and skull fractures.
“I want to make it very clear so that there’s no confusion,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “The serious injuries sustained by Donavan LaBella at the hands of a federal officer were unacceptable.”
The U.S. Marshals Service has launched an investigation into the incident.
Wheeler, a Democrat, accused President Trump on Monday of escalating the situation in his city with his “heavy-handed tactics” which “led to a serious injury and enflamed an already tense situation.”
The remarks came after Trump earlier in the day said federal officers “very much quelled” the violence seen in Portland over the weekend.
"We've done a great job in Portland. Portland was totally out of control. They went in and I guess they have many people right now in jail. We very much quelled it. If it starts again, we'll quell it again, very easily. It's not hard to do," Trump said at a White House roundtable on law enforcement.
At a press conference later Monday, Wheeler said he wants the federal agents in his city to “deescalate the situation, not add to an already highly volatile situation. He said he had no problem with federal officers protecting their facilities.
“What I have a problem with is them leaving the facilities and going out onto the streets of this community and then escalating an already tense situation as they did the other night,” he said. “I would consider telling them to leave — and I have no authority to do so."
Portland police Chief Chuck Lovell also addressed a recent uptick in shootings and homicides across the city – without claiming the violence was associated with the unrest in the city brought by riots. Portland witnessed a 380 percent increase in shootings over the past year. Five homicides occurred within a 24 hour period this weekend.
“Each of these numbers represents a human being, we must not lose sight of that,” Lovell said at the same press conference. “Five victims of homicide within 24 hours is staggering.”
Addressing rumors on social media, Portland Police said that one of those homicide victims, 28-year-old Dominique Marcel Dunn, who was gunned down on a city street corner Thursday, did not appear to be targeted because he was Black.
The agency said that “Detectives interviewed multiple witnesses to this crime and there is no information at this time to support race was a factor that played a role in this case.”