On Friday, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams ordered an investigation into claims that federal law enforcement had detained protesters without probable cause as violent riots have wracked Portland for 50 nights. The investigation follows Democrat accusations that “secret police” sent by President Donald Trump have “snatched”
antifa rioters — oh sorry, I mean “super peaceful protesters” in the middle of the night.
“Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protestors without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel,” Williams announced on Friday, KATU News reported.
The “news accounts” have often portrayed the antifa rioters as sympathetic characters attacked by those eeevil law enforcement officers attempting to restore law and order to Portland. The Washington Post covered the story with this headline: “‘It was like being preyed upon:’ Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them.”
“We were sitting on the corner, and somebody had walked up, and I was talking to a couple other people, and they’re like, ‘there’s a snatch van’ — is what we call ’em – ‘there’s a snatch van going around, and they’re black bagging people, they’re arresting people, putting bags over their heads, and putting them in out-of-state plated vans.’ They are all the dark, Grand Caravan type vans,” Kat Krimson, who identified herself as a protester, told KATU News.
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A Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) spokesperson insisted that “the CBP agents identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter. The names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law enforcement personnel who serve and protect our country.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that “Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.”
Some of the reports are concerning, and federal law enforcement needs to abide by the law when it comes to making arrests, but the coverage clearly slanted in a pro-antifa direction.
That report framed the arrests this way: “Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC, have been sent to Portland to protect federal property during the recent protests against racism and police brutality.”
During those “protests,” antifa rioters broke windows, covered the Justice Center courthouse with profane graffiti, burned an elk statue, shot off fireworks and incendiary devices at the federal courthouse, and … set up an “autonomous zone” that lasted a pitiful 36 hours. Some rioters have carried firearms, including the driver of a vehicle who attempted to hit a police officer with his car.
As Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf put it, “The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”
Yet when federal law enforcement arrived, Democrats framed the long-overdue response as “escalating” the situation. Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) claimed that the president’s “heavy-handed tactics” have made the situation worse.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) demonized federal law enforcement as Trump’s “secret police” and an “occupying army,” claiming that the federal troops “provoke violence on the streets of my hometown.”
“DHS and DOJ are engaged in acts that are horrific and outrageous in our constitutional democratic republic. First, they are deploying paramilitary forces with no identification indicating who they are or who they work for,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) alleged. “Second, these agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification. Both of these acts are profound offenses against Americans. We demand not only that these acts end, but also that they remove their forces immediately from our state.”
These Democrats did not mention the horrific violence and destruction antifa has perpetrated on the streets of Portland for nearly two months. DHS and CPB officers are not “snatching people off the street with no underlying justification.” The “underlying justification” involves 50 straight nights of rioting, destruction, vandalism, and outright violence.
On the Fourth of July, rioters fired incendiary devices and fireworks at the federal courthouse. They fired a mortar at police officers.
Federal law enforcement may have overstepped their bounds in one or two instances, but their presence is essential to restoring law and order in a city ravaged by antifa riots.
In fact, even though U.S. Attorney Billy Williams urged the DHS inspector general to open an investigation, he also made it clear that law enforcement is essential in these turbulent times. He countered the false narrative that law enforcement has been escalating the violence.
“The overarching goal of law enforcement is public protection and, during tense and dangerous situations, de-escalation. Federal law enforcement officers protecting the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse and other federal buildings have been operating with those two critical goals,” Williams noted.
“Night after night for the past 50 nights, they have protected the federal courthouse from incursion and fire. They have rebuffed efforts to enter the building by force and have been met with an onslaught of commercial fireworks, laser strikes, glass, mortars, paint, and anything else near at hand,” the U.S. attorney added. “They have endeavored to find the individuals within the crowd who are committing these violent acts and arrest them in a manner that is safe for both the officers and nearby non-violent protesters.”
The conduct of DHS and CBP officers has only been questioned “in limited instances,” Williams added. He pledged to “work in concert with local and federal enforcement and city and community leaders to bring about an end to this violence.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.