Federal agents try to detain a woman while a protester tries to "de-arrest" her early on July 27, 2020, outside of the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon (Pic: Trevor Hughes-USA TODAY/Sipa USA)
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, have night after night fought back against repression by Donald Trump’s federal troops.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have taken place in the city for two months, sparked by the police murder of George Floyd. They have from the start faced attacks from the city police.
But more recently, protesters have been met with tear gas and been routinely beaten by federal officers deployed by the US department of homeland security.
Thousands of anti-racists continued the resistance last weekend. “Portland is leading,” said Chantelle Hershberger, an organiser with the Refuse Fascism campaign.
“They’re showing what it looks like to stay in the streets despite police oppression, despite the federal forces being sent in.
“This kind of energy is actually what’s needed.”
Early last Sunday morning, protesters broke down the fence that had been erected to protect the city’s court house.
Throughout the day protesters remained defiant with thousands marking the two-month anniversary of George’s Floyd’s murder.
Protester Ronda Jordan said, “Frankly, I was afraid to come down here.
“But the more they come at us with federal officers, the more people are going to come out.”
Many of the protesters are now taking up innovative tactics to protect themselves—some of which they learned from activists fighting repression in Hong Kong.
The fightback is not just in Portland.
In Seattle, the police used flashbang grenades and pepper spray against protesters last Saturday. But the resistance continued.
Carrying signs reading, “Feds Go Home,” and chanting, “No justice, no peace,” some among the thousands-strong crowd stopped at a youth detention centre. They lit several construction trailers on fire.
And some blew an eight-inch hole through the wall of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building.
In Oakland, California, a courthouse was set on fire after a protest last Saturday evening.
And thousands of people in Chicago joined a “Love March” on the same day.
It was organised by young people to remember victims of gun violence and to call for the defunding of the city’s police department.
Nita Tennyson, one of the organisers, said, “I’m tired of burying my friends.
“I’m tired of my brothers and my cousins and my best friends being in caskets and urns.”
Trump has said that he will send “hundreds” of federal troops to Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit and other cities.
Aislinn Pulley, a co-founder of BLM in Chicago, said he’s using crime as an excuse to “stifle righteous rage and anger at the continued killing of black people by police”. “We will not be threatened,” she said.
“We will not be coerced into suppressing our rage.”
Trump hopes to save presidential campaign with police crackdowns
Donald Trump hopes to use a tough law and order message to boost his re-election campaign.
He is spending more than £20 million on television advertisements depicting empty police stations and emergency calls reaching only answering services.
He claims this is what would happen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden becomes president.
And Trump is using the federal squads, which include officers from forces used against migrants and refugees, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice).
In the vanguard is the Border Patrol Tactical Unit. This was used earlier in the year to round-up migrants in ten cities where local governments have ordered police not to fully collaborate with federal immigration agents.
Trump’s racist rhetoric fires up violence against protesters. In Austin, Texas, a protester was shot dead by a motorist. At a protest in Aurora, Colorado, a car was driven into demonstrators blocking a highway.
None of that will worry Trump, but his strategy is a high-risk gamble.
Fifteen mayors of major US cities have banded together to denounce Trump for his move to call in federal agents to their cities.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “We’ve seen the chaos secret police are creating in Portland. We won’t let it happen here.”
De Blasio has also threatened to sue Trump if he sends federal troops into the city.
Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, said, “Oakland needs Covid-19 relief—not troops—from our president.”
The US justice department inspector general also said that they will be conducting a review into how federal agents dealt with protesters in Lafayette Square, near the White House in Washington.
The splits in the ruling class are important because they create more spaces for protesters to organise.
But the mayors and Biden are no barrier to repression. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler was tear gassed by federal forces last week.
But he has also attacked protesters. Local police used tear gas multiple times before federal agents arrived in July.
Protesters last week held signs aloft that read, “Tear Gas Ted,” in reference to Portland police’s use of the weapon.