Late last week, reports surfaced of federal agents in tactical gear and unmarked vans rounding up protesters in Portland. The unprecedented crackdown follows more than 50 straight nights of demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism involving mostly peaceful protesters, but also vandals targeting government property and violent actors confronting local and federal law enforcement officers. President Trump sent in the “rapid deployment teams” to protect federal property and personnel; at the same time, he condemned the failure of the city’s Democratic leadership to do so.
Early this month, federal officials largely limited their responses to protecting federal facilities—their first move was to clear protesters from outside the federal courthouse. By July 4, however, the agents were escalating their use of force to remove protesters.
Freelance journalist Garrison Davis, who has covered almost every day of the Portland protests through videos and updates on his Twitter feed, recalls the most jarring use of force by law enforcement coming on July 11. “The crowd was the most peaceful I’d seen in weeks, and the federal officers were the most brutal that I’d ever seen,” he tells The Dispatch.
Federal officers reportedly deployed tear gas, bloodied protesters with batons, and fired rubber bullets into crowds of protesters in order to clear them from the federal courthouse. Donavan La Bella, 26, was hospitalized and required facial reconstruction surgery after a federal agent shot him in the head with a “less-than-lethal” munition.