Unidentified Federal Officers Are Scooping Up Protesters In Portland. Are Other Cities Next?

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Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)
Federal officers use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Unidentified federal law enforcement officers are scooping up protesters in Portland and detaining them in unmarked vehicles. They were sent to quell protests, but many say their presence is only fanning the flames. We'll discuss the legality of a president using federal force in U.S. cities, and what it means for our democracy.


Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. Permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Author of many books, including: "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America" and "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." (@TimothyDSnyder)

Ryan Haas, news editor, Oregon Public Broadcasting. (@ryanjhaas)

Last weekend, as unidentified federal officers beat protesters and detained them in unmarked vehicles, a group of women came together to form a human wall to protect those protesters — a "Wall of Moms." We spoke with Bev Barnum, a 35-year-old from Portland who brought the group together:

From The Reading List

Excerpted from "On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder.

Copyright © 2017 by Timothy Snyder. Excerpted by permission of Crown, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The New York Times: "Trump's Occupation of American Cities Has Begun" — "The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book 'On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.' It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy. One of Snyder’s lessons was, 'Be wary of paramilitaries.' He wrote, 'When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.' In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening."

The Washington Post: "A Navy vet asked federal officers in Portland to remember their oaths. Then they broke his hand." — "He came to the protest with a question. He left with two broken bones in a confrontation with federal officers that went viral. Christopher David had watched in horror as videos surfaced of federal officers in camouflage throwing protesters into unmarked vans in Portland. The 53-year-old Portland resident had heard the stories: protesters injured, gassed, sprayed with chemicals that tugged at their nostrils and burned their eyes."

Politico: "Trump administration weighs a show of force in more cities" — "Portland may just be the beginning. Federal law enforcement agencies are gearing up to expand their footprint nationwide in the coming weeks, despite concerns about the recent scenes of violence and chaos in Oregon."

The Atlantic: "America Gets an Interior Ministry" — "For decades, conservative activists and leaders have warned that 'jackbooted thugs' from the federal government were going to come to take away Americans’ civil rights with no due process and no recourse. Now they’re here—but they’re deployed by a staunchly right-wing president with strong conservative support."

Chicago Tribune: "Trump expected to send new federal force to Chicago this week to battle violence, but plan’s full scope is a question mark" — "Chicago may see an influx of federal agents as soon as this week as President Donald Trump readies to make good on repeated pledges he would try to tamp down violence here, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities."

CBS News: "Women in Portland form 'Wall of Moms' to protect protesters from federal officers" — "A group of women banded together to form a human wall to protect protesters from federal officers in Portland over the weekend. There have been 52 days and nights of protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which have turned violent after federal authorities have been sent in earlier this month."

The Los Angeles Times: "Out of Portland tear gas, an apparition emerges, capturing the imagination of protesters" — "She emerged as an apparition from clouds of tear gas as federal agents fired pepper balls at angry protesters in the early Saturday darkness. A woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap strode toward a dozen heavily armed agents attired in camouflage fatigues, lined up across a downtown Portland street. The agents, dispatched by the Trump administration over vociferous objections of state and city officials, are part of a force that has fired projectiles at and detained activists protesting nightly since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police May 25."

Oregon Public Broadcasting: "How The Pandemic And Trump's Efforts To Exclude Undocumented Immigrants Will Effect The 2020 Census" — "On the long timeline of racial justice protests in Portland, July 1 was a lifetime ago. Protesters had settled into a nightly routine at the Multnomah County Justice Center. The fencing around the building had just come down. The iconic elk statue still stood watch above Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, offering a comfortable late-night perch for many protesters. Then federal law enforcement officers began appearing at the daily protests."

This article was originally published on July 23, 2020.

This program aired on July 23, 2020.


Dorey Scheimer Senior Editor, On Point
Dorey Scheimer is a senior editor at On Point.


Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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