As Jazz wrote yesterday, a riot was declared in Portland over the weekend. Today the Associated Press published a story which looks at events from both inside the courthouse and outside. The piece seems like a legitimate attempt to cover events fairly but it mostly winds up making the violent protesters look bad and making the non-violent protesters look like idiots.
The protest starts with drummers and dancing but as the sun set a crowd of approximately 4,000 people march to the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse to confront the federal police officers inside. The courthouse windows have been covered with plywood and a metal fence has been set up around the building. Inside the fence the federal police guarding the courthouse are convinced the rioters want to kill them. A Deputy U.S. Marshal told the AP, “It’s scary. You open those doors out, when the crowd is shaking the fence, and … on the other side of that fence are people that want to kill you because of the job we chose to do and what we represent.”
Outside the fence, a protester named Monica told an AP reporter that the rioters weren’t “being violent.”
“We are not here being violent or being destructive. We have a positive message — there is nothing to quell here,” she said, referencing Trump’s statement that the agents were there to quell unrest. “The people of Portland are saying, ‘We don’t want this presence here and we don’t think we need them at all.’”
So you have two very different views of what is happening in Portland. Which one is closer to reality?
Thirty minutes later, someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls that cause the agents to slip and fall…
Inside the courthouse, it was dark, pitch dark except for one narrow ceiling bulb that cast a cone of light over the stairs.
Without lights, the agents hoped they would be better protected from people in the crowd who were firing metal ball bearings through the windows with sling shots. Thick ribbons of green light from blinding lasers crisscrossed the courthouse lobby, forcing the agents who were resting in between deployments to the fence to duck and weave to protect their eyes.
You can see the lasers in the image above. They are constantly being aimed at the officers. The AP reporter took a photo of a basket of items that had been thrown at police officers that night.
The basket doesn’t include the large fireworks tossed over the fence. At least two officers were injured by fireworks the night the AP reporter was there:
The firework came whizzing over the fence so fast that the agent didn’t have time to move.
It exploded with a boom, leaving his hearing deadened and bloody gashes on both forearms. Stunned, with help from his cohorts, he stripped to his boxer shorts and a black T-shirt so his wounds could be examined and photographed for evidence.
There’s a photo of the injured officer at this link. But he wasn’t the only one injured that night.
By the end of the night, five other federal agents would be injured, including another who got a concussion when he was hit in the head with a commercial-grade firework. One agent was hospitalized. Several agents have lingering vision problems from the lasers…
“My friends have been hit in the head with hammers. I know people who have been shot with fireworks. It’s disgusting,” said the Deputy U.S. Marshal who’s been at the courthouse for weeks.
When we were out inside the fence line, someone fired off a mortar. It exploded inches away from us, but no one was hurt. A large bonfire had been started in the street & people were aiming fireworks through the fire at officers behind the fence. It was almost 2:30 a.m. then. pic.twitter.com/qVsH1T1DQM
— Mike Balsamo (@MikeBalsamo1) July 27, 2020
And yet, outside the courthouse a 21-year-old name Eli told an AP reporter, “I think what people fail to realize is, us in Portland, we’re still playing defense so anything we do, it’s a defensive maneuver. We are protecting ourselves at the very most and each other.”
So who seems to have a better grip on reality here? The rioters who claim, “We are not here being violent or being destructive” or the police who saw a total of six officers injured including one in the hospital that night? I think the AP story makes it pretty clear the rioters are delusional at best. In case you’re still not sure, here’s what Portland Police found in a bag yesterday. This is what “mostly peaceful” looks like.
Tonight Portland Police were near Lownsdale Square Park. A person pointed out a bag to them. Inside the bag Police found loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails pic.twitter.com/ytpu9pZjqG
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) July 27, 2020
Update: U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams gave an interview outside the courthouse in Portland last Friday. He said that what was happening every night was criminal and called it “mindless violence.” Toward the end of the interview, a reporter asked him about “late night demonstrations” and Williams interrupted to call out the media for failing to point out that there’s a difference between “late night demostrations” and criminal violence. The reporter claims it’s not her job to call things criminal as if it would be wrong to characterize nightly vandalism, arson and attacks on police officers as criminal behavior.