Exactly How Violent Are the Portland Protests?
By: April Feng
On Tuesday, Attorney General William P. Barr justified the widely debated federal response to the Portland protests by stating that the protesters there had become violent. While many officials both at the local and state level have criticized the defense of the federal intervention, Barr has claimed that the federal actions are necessary.
According to The New York Times, Barr stated, “As I’ve said from the beginning, these peaceful protests are being hijacked by a very hard core of instigators, violent instigators...Police casualties far exceed anything on the civilian side.” Defending the federal response, Barr said, “In the wake of George Floyd's death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims.”
While Barr has cited the vandalism and destruction of property done by protestors, city officials have also mentioned the violence of federal agents. According to the Federal Protective Service and Customs and Border Protection agencies, a legal filing stated that there are 114 federal law enforcement officers currently in Portland, resulting in rising tensions within the city.
Most protesting groups have consisted of students, veterans, and even the “Wall of Moms,” a line of mothers wishing to help. They have remained fairly peaceful. In response, Barr stated, “You have a lot of people who are out protesting and demonstrating. The particular violent opportunists who are involved here get into these crowds and engage in very violent activity and hijack it.”
For instance, Barr stated that some protestors have “thrown rocks, water bottles and fireworks at federal officers,” according to The New York Times. Some acts, like setting fire near courthouses, may have even put federal agents in danger.
As a July 22 court filing stated, “The most serious injury to an officer to date occurred when a protester wielding a two-pound sledgehammer struck an officer in the head and shoulder when the officer tried to prevent the protester from breaking down a door to the Hatfield Courthouse.” Other injuries included “broken bones, hearing damage, eye damage, a dislocated shoulder, sprains, strains, and contusions.” The filing also mentioned that 28 federal agents had been injured in protests.
Nurses and doctors recently joining the protest, such as Jillian Trent, have objected to the violent federal response. Trent stated, “People are coming in with their jaws falling off,” referring to injuries from federal law enforcement officers. Although there is no exact number of injured protestors, some have filed lawsuits, and many others have been captured on camera.