On Sunday morning, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler responded to President Trump's tweet calling protestors "anarchists and agitators" by once again demanding that he back down and retreat federal officers from the city. "What's happening here is, we have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city. And what they're doing is, they are sharply escalating the situation," Wheeler said, calling Trump's tactics "abhorrent."
This reaction comes after days of federal agents in unmarked vans reportedly detaining Portland protesters en masse. Law enforcement agents without identifiable gear were deployed by the Trump administration, who believed the city was running rampant with demonstrators creating autonomous zones and continuing to protest police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!" Trump tweeted on Sunday, targeting city and state-wide leadership's response to the protestors. Despite Trump's assertions and deployment of federal agents, the city's mayor — along with Oregon's governor — have repeatedly demanded that the president stand down. "He is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government,” Governor Kate Brown tweeted on Thursday.
But ongoing reports from Trump and the Department of Homeland Security continue to call the city “under siege,” in an effort to justify the use of tear gas and flash bangs on hundreds of protestors. Using words like "lawless anarchists" to describe the protestors, it seems Trump's desire to eradicate this specific city's ongoing demonstrations is both perilous and definitive. But after months of protests across the country, why is Trump targeting Portland?
Trump may be blaming Portland officials for this move, but the president has threatened to enact the use of "troops" multiple times over the course of the Black Lives Matter protests. Along with Republican leaders like Sen. Tom Cotton, who literally suggested in his New York Times op-ed that federal forces intervene in protests the way that they are doing so in Portland, the Trump administration has sought to quell protestors with force in the last 50+ days.
Since Portland is a smaller city that was seeing little intervention from local leadership, many are calling this a "trial run" for further police actions. In Esquire, Charles S. Pierce calls Portland a "dress rehearsal" for what is to come. "This is not an 'authoritarian impulse.' This is authoritarian government — straight, no chaser. And this administration has a powerful thirst for it."
Others see the attack on Portland as a political move, too. Portland, though often considered a liberal city, has become more politically divided since Trump's 2016 election. The increased presence of white supremacy groups like the Proud Boys and the Portland-based group Patriot Prayer have led to violent rallies and confrontations with local left-wing counter protesters. With clashes between anti-police brutality protests and federal agents escalating in the Pacific Northwest, many political leaders are wondering whether Trump’s deployment of the authorities is meant to stir up division ahead of the 2020 election.
Gov Brown alluded to these thoughts in her Thursday tweet on the ongoing situation, stating that while she got in touch with Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to remove the federal agents from Portland streets, “His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes.”
As more tales of agents going head-to-head with protesters come out, political leaders have decried Trump and DHS’s presence in Portland. “Oregonians’ demand for answers about this occupying army and its paramilitary assaults in Portland at the direction of Donald Trump and Chad Wolf cannot be stonewalled,” said Oregon Sen Ron Wyden.
US Representative Suzanne Bonamici also described “the overly aggressive conduct of federal officers in Portland” as “alarming and unconstitutional.” But it doesn't seem Trump has intentions to let up on Portland protestors in the near future. And at this point, it looks like the mums of Portland are taking it upon themselves to protect demonstrators from the dangerous police state.