[News] In Portland, Questions Swirl Around Local Police’s Coordination With Federal Officers

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jul 25 21:23:04 EDT 2020



Arun Gupta - July 24, 2020 

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty agrees with other elected
officials in Oregon who say federal police dispatched to the city by
President Donald Trump are an "occupying army [1]," represent "a blatant
abuse of power [2]," and are "shadowy forces [3]" that have been
"escalating, not preventing, violence." 

Hardesty, though, stands nearly alone in saying local officials should
share blame for the nightly violence engulfing the streets around the
federal courthouse in downtown Portland, where the federal cops are
deployed. Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell gave Trump the
opportunity to send in the "secret police," she told The Intercept. For
more than a month before the federal forces came, local police had
already been clashing with protesters. "Portland police overreacted at
people throwing bottles at them," Hardesty said. "They started gassing
whole neighborhoods. They were doing that long before the feds showed

> "Portland police overreacted at people throwing bottles at them. They started gassing whole neighborhoods. They were doing that long before the feds showed up."

Violence by city police motivated many protesters to stay in the
streets, but by July, the protests had dwindled to a couple hundred

The federal assault on the city began on July 1, when federal agents
began openly targeting Black Lives Matter supporters. Their presence
became national news following a U.S. Marshal shooting [4] a
nonaggressive protester [5] in the face with less-lethal [6] munitions
on July 12 and, days later, reports [7] and videos [8] of unidentified
Border Patrol agents [9] in camouflage grabbing people off the street,
stuffing them into unmarked vehicles, and driving off. News coverage of
the federal agents' tactics led to a boom in protests: Thousands now
show up nightly to the courthouse to demonstrate, this time against the
federal police presence. 

The federal moves into Portland are an apparent part of Trump's plan to
"take over cities" where he says crime is surging. His dispatching of
114 federal police [10] to the city sprang from an executive order [11]
signed on June 26 to protect "Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or
property." Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf
assembled a task force [9] -- made up of the Border Patrol, Coast Guard,
U.S. Marshals, and other agencies -- and reportedly dispatched [12] 200
police to Washington, D.C. [13]; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Seattle; and
Portland before July 4. 

The details of some of the moves have been murky. Typical of Trump's
improvisational chaos, White House officials scramble to engineer his
impetuous decisions to look like developed policies. At least three
different initiatives compromise Trump's push to send federal police to
cities: Wolf's "Protecting Americans Communities Task Force"; the
Department of Justice's crime-fighting "Operation Legend [14]" announced
on July 8; and "Operation Diligent Valor [10]," which includes the
Portland police mission. 

In Portland, however, the feds are only part of the story. There is
mounting evidence that, despite across-the-board condemnation from the
city's politicians, Portland's own police force has coordinated closely
with federal police in attacking protests. For Hardesty, the mayor's
focus on Trump as the sole cause of the chaos distracts from his
inability to control local police, who she says are acting in concert
with the federal agents. 

"We know that Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner met
with DHS Secretary Chad Wolf," Hardesty wrote on Twitter last weekend.
"We know Portland Police are collaborating with this federal occupying

Other local politicians, like City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, have
echoed [15] Hardesty's allegation that local cops are working with the
feds, calling for the collaboration to end. 

Out of the locales that have already seen federal police involvement --
with Trump vowing to send more into new cities -- only in Portland has
the conflict devolved into captivating and terrifying medieval-style
battles. The assaults by federal agents on protesters are widely seen as
a sign of Trump's descent into violent authoritarianism. 

Portland is no stranger to far-right violence [16]. In 2017, the city
became a hotbed for extremist rallies, one of which attracted a neo-Nazi
who later committed a double murder. The next year, the extreme right
used the city, with evidence of police complicity, to stage riots
against anti-fascists. Now, Trump is using Portland -- and the federal
cops -- as a testing ground to energize his base. 

So why has Portland become a "right-wing boogeyman [17]" during the
Trump years? The answer starts with Oregon's creation as a "white utopia
[18]" in 1859, where Black and mixed-race people were barred from living
in the state. That shaped Oregon as a center of Ku Klux Klan activity in
the 1920s [19], and there were harsh Jim Crow laws in the state. To this
day, 2 percent of Oregon's population is Black. Portland itself is often
called "the whitest big city [20]" in America, owing to its 77 percent
white [21] population. 

The overwhelming white makeup of the city and state -- the legacy of
white supremacy -- can make politicians see taking on racist policies as
a liability. "Politicians are reluctant to challenge racist policing for
fear of being tarnished as anti-cop and losing support of white voters,"
said Joseph Lowndes, professor of political science at the University of

Read Our Complete CoverageProtests for Black Lives [22]

Enter Jo Ann Hardesty. In 2018, she was elected as the first Black woman
to the Portland City Council on a platform of reining in police
violence. Having advocated for police reforms since she moved to
Portland 30 years ago, observers and journalists have described Hardesty
as the first politician in the city to forcefully oppose racist policing

The lack of establishment opposition to police power sets Portland apart
from other cities [24] where Trump has said or hinted [25] he will
dispatch federal police. The Portland Police Association has bulldozed
elected officials for decades. One police union president would put his
gun on the table [26] when meeting with the mayor. Their contract
protects racist cops [27]. The Independent Police Review, which handles
complaints about the cops, is widely viewed as toothless [28]. And it's
hard to fire cops [29]who've used deadly force. 

In 2016, organizers had gathered demonstrators at City Hall to protest
as the police union negotiated a new contract. Activists claim the
police rioted [30], forcing protesters out of City Hall. Police in riot
gear then surrounded the building while city officials approved their
union contract. That would be the incident which convinced Hardesty to
run for office. 

In other cities, opposition to unaccountable police is stronger. In
Seattle, a veto-proof majority [31] of the council supports halving the
police budget. In Philadelphia, the district attorney has vowed to
prosecute any federal police [32] who "unlawfully assaults and kidnaps
people." In Minneapolis, the city council has taken steps to dismantle
[33] the entire police department. 

The big questions in Portland right now revolve around the relationship
between the feds and Portland police. 

"I believe police union president Daryl Turner requested the federal
police presence," Hardesty told The Intercept. "We are starting to learn
that is how they are getting into other cities at the request of the
police." She pointed to the Chicago police union [34] writing to Trump
[35] on July 18, asking "for help from the federal government … to bring
civility back to the streets of Chicago." Days later, Trump said [36]
federal police were headed to Chicago. 

When DHS's Wolf met with Turner, the police union chief said [37] the
main objective of the meeting was to have the feds "working alongside
PPB Chief Lovell in conjunction with and communicating with him and his
command staff." 

The Portland police have been cagey about how they work with the feds.
Deputy Chief Chris Davis [38] has said Portland police offered
"suggestions" to the federal forces and coordinated efforts with them. 

> "It's inevitable there's some coordination. They can hear each other on the radio, they see each other on the street."

Lovell, the police chief, said that Portland police communicate with
federal officers because they operate "within a city block" of each
other. He added, "We do not control their actions. They do not control
ours. We don't direct their uses of force, anything like that." The next
day, Portland Police said that federal police would no longer work "in
the Portland Police incident command center" -- surprising observers who
didn't realize the feds were there in the first place. 

"It's inevitable there's some coordination," said Independent Police
Review Director Ross Caldwell. "They can hear each other on the radio,
they see each other on the street." 

Media reports, footage, and eyewitnesses all point to close

"Federal law enforcement officers [39], along with the Portland police
and Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies, used tear gas and impact
munitions to disperse hundreds of protesters from downtown," reported
Oregon Public Broadcasting [40], of an incident blocks away from the
Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse on July 4. 

The same night, Alex Milan Tracy, an independent photojournalist, filmed
[41] Portland police in vehicles ordering the streets cleared while
federal officers nearby on foot enforced the sweeps. It was one of three
times Tracy said he has witnessed a "coordinated response" between
Portland and federal police "systematically clearing the streets around
the federal courthouse." 

Robert Evans, who reports for Bellingcat and is one of the most
prominent livestreamers of "The Battle of Portland [42]," said he has
seen federal police and Portland police working together "multiple
times" to clear the streets and assault protesters. 

On July 12, videographer Garrison Davis documented [43] dozens of
federal police and Portland police mixed together pushing protesters
away from the park and Portland police vehicles issuing warnings to
leave the area. The Oregonian [44] described [44] the scene: "Portland
police and federal officers marched shoulder-to-shoulder." 

At 1:31 a.m. on June 18, The Intercept heard Portland police warn force
would be used, including crowd-control munitions, in five minutes. Six
minutes later, federal police attacked a few hundred protesters with
tear gas and pepper balls. "Evidence shows Portland police working with
federal officers at protests, contradicting city officials," The
Oregonian [44] reported. It described a "tandem force [45]" of "federal
and local officers emerged at the same time to advance on protesters." 

Court documents also show Portland police making a July 11 arrest of a
man named Edward William Carubis on assault charges at the behest of the
Federal Protective Services, a uniformed police division of the
Department of Homeland Security. 

The apparent coordination has raised the possibility for police critics
that local police are using the federal forces to evade accountability.
Portland police have received assistance from at least 11 different area
law enforcement agencies [46], where these issues have already surfaced.
According to Caldwell, the Independent Police Review director, the
agency has forwarded as many as a "few dozen cases" of claims of
excessive force to these other agencies, adding, "I highly doubt they
would ever tell us the result." 

What's more, courts have intervened to place limits on the Portland
police -- limits that do not apply to federal agents. So far, courts
have sided with petitioners in issuing two sets of restraints. In one
case filed by the ACLU of Oregon, Portland police were barred [47] "from
arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force" against
journalists and legal observers. In another, the local police forces'
use of tear gas was limited. 

City Council officials said they are being kept in the dark about the
coordination. Hardesty said she is "appalled" that the mayor and police
chief "lied to the public for the entire time the protests have been
taking place. They all said, 'Oh no, no cooperation at all.'"
Nonetheless, local politicians are trying to undertake measures to break
up the coordination. On July 22, the City Council acted, unanimously
banning Portland police [48] from working with federal law enforcement. 

That night, though, the federal police did something local cops no
longer can: unleashed "massive [49]" clouds of tear gas on hundreds of


[1] https://twitter.com/RonWyden/status/1282399117663059968
[2] https://twitter.com/OregonGovBrown/status/1283913150014926848
[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt3hwf4LiJk
[8] https://twitter.com/Eleven_Films/status/1283967750981873670
[16] https://theintercept.com/2019/08/16/portland-far-right-rally/
[18] https://mylaw.uoregon.edu/org/olrold/archives/83/83_2_731.pdf
[21] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/portlandcityoregon
[22] https://theintercept.com/collections/protests-for-black-lives/
[34] http://www.chicagofop.org/about-the-lodge
[38] https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/680633
[41] https://twitter.com/AlexMilanTracy/status/1279719823262416896
[43] https://twitter.com/hungrybowtie/status/1282247518592495616
[49] https://twitter.com/TheRealCoryElia/status/1286192484373032960
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