A tense political and ideological standoff in Portland, Ore. has served as a breaking point around the conversation about fascism in America.
They’re “really getting battle-hardened quickly. Last week they were showing up in t-shirts.” - Tuck Woodstock, journalist
As President Donald Trump paints a picture of radical left chaos playing out in the streets of the Pacific Northwest city, Portland residents and officials say the protests, demonstrating solidarity and support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, are intended to be peaceful and nonviolent.
However over the last few weeks, images of brutalized Portland protestors and officials in military gear have begun to infiltrate the national media landscape. Things have become especially concerning as there are now stories circulating of protestors getting picked up off the streets by federal officers in unmarked vans and severe acts of violence against those protesting.
Listen: Portland protests see rise in federal intervention
Tuck Woodstock is an independent journalist covering Portland. Woodstock says they believe the protests would have died down naturally without the presence of federal troops.
“It’s not that there was a real direct immediate need for troops on the ground. I think it is a pretty obvious power play to send federal troops into the city,” they say.
Woodstock says they have only heard a few reports of protestors being picked up by federal officers in unmarked vehicles, but that there may be more. They say that in one case, a protestor was picked up while they were walking home from a protest. “We don’t know the details in all of these cases because people often don’t feel safe coming forward,” Woodstock says.
Recently, protest groups in Portland like the Wall of Moms have come to protests with protective goggles, respirators, and shields. Some have even brought leaf blowers to blow away tear gas. “Lawyers, veterans, chefs, local business owners, parents, grandparents, these are all people who are coming out to the protests for the first time,” Woodstock says. They’re ” really getting battle-hardened quickly. Last week they were showing up in t-shirts.”
George Hunter, a crime reporter for the Detroit News, says that he would not be surprised if federal troops were called into Detroit. He says that he has seen violent crime rates increase dramatically over the last few months outside of protests over police brutality.
“These partnerships don’t always go as smoothly as they might appear at the podium when everyone is smiling at each other. You’re going to have bumps in the road whenever you have policing. Period.” — George Hunter, crime reporter for the Detroit News.
“The mayor and the police chief openly say they’d welcome [federal troops] to come help with crime, which is nothing new,” he says, and that reports of federal troops in unmarked cars in Portland aren’t surprising either. “I would be shocked if there weren’t feds watching and paying attention to what’s happening. I think the issue is when you start arresting people in unmarked cars.”
Although the presence of federal troops in Detroit may be welcomed by the mayor and police chief, Hunter says these partnerships are often less harmonious than they seem.
“These partnerships don’t always go as smoothly as they might appear at the podium when everyone is smiling at each other. You’re going to have bumps in the road whenever you have policing. Period,” Hunter says.
This article was written by Detroit Today student producer Ali Audet.