PDX Protest — Days 42-44
We honestly, really, seriously need to stay the fuck away from the feds.
Their uniforms may say “police,” but they are utterly unlike what any of us ever calls a “cop.”
Journalist Robert Evans, host of Behind the Bastards podcast and expert on American fascism, has consulted these very federal agencies on far-right terrorist groups. I’ve watched his livestreams, and he’s probably my favorite on-the-ground reporter. It’s astounding how calm and grounded he keeps himself while flashbangs and teargas going off are everywhere. The man is not prone to hyperbole.
He puts it like this:
“[These men] have no flinch response to violence. They exist to break human bodies. Their job is to destroy people.”
These are not scared beat cops. These are ruthless, highly trained security forces. Many, if not most, have been through boot camp. All have been through FLETC training.
There was so much fucking gas last night. Billowing blankets, at least four times.
They blocked a medic from tending to a man having a seizure.
They hit a man in the head with an impact munition. Specifically. Intentionally. Precisely. He was standing across the street, not trespassing on federal property, holding a boom box over his head.
Theirs is a level of cruelty our protesters are utterly unprepared for. We have no power to restrain them. Not even the governor. And, to boot, several seem to be strutting around with M4 assault rifles.
We are in way over our heads.
Ok, so there are three agencies of federal LEO to know about here.
Federal Protective Service (FPS): These folks are tasked specifically with protecting federal property. Likely involved exclusively because the protest target is the federal courthouse. Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC): These are the ones Trump sent specifically to deal with the protests. Basically the SWAT teams of US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP, also a part of DHS). Special ops. Elite af. These people perform operations, not sit around and wait. They’ve gotta be bored as fuck. That’s not a good thing.
US Marshals Service (USMS): This one I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. It’s an old agency, and they do a lot, from the looks of it. They’re part of the Department of Justice. They protect judiciary proceedings, hunt federal fugitives, seize criminal assets, transport federal prisoners, administer Witness protection… I’m guessing that they, like FPS, are involved because of the courthouse, but their responsibilities are broad enough that I’m not convinced they wouldn’t be tasked with more. They have very broad authority to arrest, and the Marshals themselves (not the deputies, the 93 marshals) can deputize local police, giving them federal jurisdiction. So they could, say, deputize police from sizeable cities that aren’t being rocked by protests and fly them to Seattle or Portland to beef up the numbers, in a modernization of the wild-west posse. I’m not sure, but they may be able to deputize far-right non-LEO paramilitary folk, too. I’m looking into that.
All three agencies are trained at Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC). I’m having a hard time tracking down exact lengths of the training programs, but sans fact-checkers, USMS seems by far the longest at 21 1/2 weeks. BORTAC is 24/7 for 2–3 weeks, (surely on top of the 12 week CBP training). I’m not finding explicit answers on FPS, so they might only need the 8-week basic FLETC police training.
This happens at very few locations, so this isn’t, like, go-home-to-your-wife-and-kids-at-night police academy. This is more like boot camp.
For comparison, US Marines boot camp is about 12 weeks.
I remember a bit of news cycle when Trump was threatening to send the military to help quell the protests. People laughed because he doesn’t have the authority to do that. Which is true. The military is for use against foreign countries. But looking into these federal law enforcement agencies, they sure seem to look a lot like domestic military.
We need to stop fucking with the feds. We are in no way prepared for the hurt they can bring.
This means abandoning downtown. It’s been to direct protest attention. A lack of targets has consistently deescalated. We can do all we can to shepherd people to the Justice Center, but all it takes is one federal arrest and eeeverybody is pointed at the courthouse again. If there are police in front of the courthouse and none in front of the JC, people will be drawn to the courthouse, like moths to a dumpster fire.
It’s time to move on anyway. We’re not really disrupting the status quo down there anymore. We’ve become the status quo.
Anywhere else within easy marching distance of JC (say, Wheeler’s condo in the Pearl) is just gonna have people gravitating back to JC (and thus the courthouse). It always does. So really, the entirety of downtown is out.
PPB buildings make easy, obvious targets. The issue is that they’re all in low-income neighborhoods. North precinct and the police union offices are both in Black neighborhoods, and I’d really love if the protesters didn’t bring police brutality down on the very people we’re doing all of this to protect.
East precinct might be manageable if we came at the building from inside the Mall 205 parking lot so that we get pushed into commercial rather than into residential. Tactically, a big mall parking lot sounds both great and terrible. Great in the fact that its so open that the police would have a much harder time sweeping with a riot line the way they can a street corridor. Terrible in how vulnerable it is to vehicle attacks. And deep SE seems to have a stronger right-wing presence than other areas in Portland.
Do we really need to target police buildings, though? The goal here is to be disruptive and threatening to the power structures, right? So go to where the power is. Go to where the money is.
While it’s pretty close to downtown, South Waterfront is one juicy target. What a goddamned schmancey condotopia that is.
Or if you are dead-set on local law enforcement buildings, the Multnomah County Sherrif’s Office on SE 47th and Burnside, nestled in North Tabor, would be lovely.
I do expect that feds would follow. The question is which feds. BORTAC, certainly. The protests are the entire reason they’re in Portland. I’m thinking FPS probably not. The sheriff’s office is not federal property. US Marshals, I don’t know. Maybe. Even just getting one federal law enforcement agency off our backs sounds like a great idea, though.
But I really don’t know how to accomplish this. The JC blocks have been going so long that an entire subculture has developed, with anthropological artifacts like the Elk God Pedestal, the Murder Holes, the Danger Door, DJLRAD, Colonizers statue, Riot Ribs BBQ, Skateboard Medics, that bloody 7-Eleven, and on and on. Some of it would follow, of course, like the Snack Van and Riot Ribs, but “follow” is an important word there. These mobile protest institutions are there to provide support infrastructure, and so they are going to go to where the people who need them are. And the people, as members of this emergent mutual aid siblinghood, are going to go to where the culture is. It’s a chicken/egg. It’s gonna be up to the activist organizations like PNWYLF and Snack Bloc and others to pick a spot, stick to the spot, and make that the epicenter of the Portland protest culture.
I don’t know if it can actually be done or not. But for god’s sake, we need to to stop fucking with the feds!
That’s what my white ass thinks.