Quite a lot happened over the weekend in Portland, Oregon. I’ll likely have a few posts and TPM Reader accounts to share with you over the course of the day. But first a bit of overview. I’m no expert on Portland. And I’d want ask TPM Readers in the city and region to keep sending me their accounts to help me and our team deepen our understanding of the situation and on-going developments.
The following gives, I believe, a good overview of the basic dynamics of what’s happening and the latest events.
It remains important to understand that quite apart from all the Trump shenanigans, there really is an issue in Portland. There have been on-going protests in the city since the nationwide protests starting in late May. But as the protests have dissipated nationwide they’ve continued, albeit in smaller numbers, in Portland. As the protests in Portland have gotten smaller they’ve also become more militant. There’s a subset of the protestors who have repeatedly over the last six weeks resorted to low level violence (throwing objects at police), minor vandalism and even arson, all focused on this one federal court house complex.
TPM Reader JC flagged this press conference with the Mayor of Portland and the Chief of Police where they discuss the on-going protests in the city and the role of DHS law enforcement and the President in re-inflaming the situation.
I’ve captured this one answer from Mayor Ted Wheeler in which he says the situation was settling down before federal forces re-escalated the situation with their aggressive tactics.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says protests/vandalism was winding down before Feds came in and re-inflamed the situation with aggressive tactics and escalation. pic.twitter.com/t9JgzJiKkr
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 18, 2020
Last night I noted that Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli told NPR that not only were they not pulling back on their actions in Portland but that they planned to take them nationwide. The brief NPR interview is important because along with other reporting that came out over the course of Friday it helps understand just what the White House is doing and the purported legal rationale under which they are doing it.
As we’ve discussed, even as protests have subsided in much of the United States, they’ve continued in Portland, with an especial focus on Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in the city. There has been a faction of protestors who’ve set off fireworks, painted graffiti and thrown bottles at police in nightly standoffs. This federal building is key.
When asked about calls for an investigation into DHS police tactics in Portland, Oregon, Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli tells NPR not only are they not going to stop but they want to take the tactics nationwide.
Well, we are – we welcome – the more investigations, the better. With as much lawbreaking is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.
Here are a couple more articles worth your time to read if you’re trying to make sense of the federal deployment in Portland. One is from The Nation and details a memo from Customs and Border Protection detailing the operation and how to discuss it with the public. The other is from the Times and provides an overview and range of details about the operation. (A bigfoot news organization can break facts free.) The upshot is that we should see this deployment in Portland and other cities as a continuation of the incident in Lafayette Park more than six weeks ago.
It seems increasingly clear that President Trump is trying to use the most politicized and violent agencies of federal law enforcement to provoke confrontations in American cities to push his ‘law and order’ campaign message. Zoë Richards gave us an overview this morning of what we know so far.
There are on-going protests in Portland focused especially around the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and a faction of people committing low-level acts of vandalism tied to those protests. Local police say they are trying to separate the two groups. Tim Dickinson has a deep dive here in Rolling Stone on how this is proving difficult for a number of reasons, not least of which is deep-seated suspicion of the city police force in what is after all a very progressive city.
You have likely seen the growing clinical evidence that COVID is not only a respiratory disease but frequently strikes at the brain and nervous system. A group of new studies out of Spain provide more detailed evidence. Our Spanish correspondent TPM Reader SH sent me this article in El Pais (English language version). The headline is that over half of COVID patients in Spain developed neurological problems of one sort of another.