Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that federal agents dressed in camouflage and body armor have been driving around downtown Portland in unmarked minivans since at least July 14 sweeping people up off the streets and detaining them in undisclosed locations. Officers do not identify themselves or provide a reason for the detention. The agents are reported to be drawn from Customs and Border Protection’s elite BORTAC unit and the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group (Levinson and Wilson, Political Fight). Federal officers have charged at least thirteen people with crimes as of yesterday evening's report. An undisclosed number have been detained and released.
Journalists have been arrested. On July 11 a demonstrator holding a speaker playing music over his head suffered facial and skull fractures when he was hit by a "crowd control device" fired by a federal officer. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and others have expressed concern about that incident and about reports that an aircraft linked to the U.S. Marshals Service
circled over Portland for about three hours on the night of June 13 when thousands of Oregonians exercised their First Amendment right to protest.… the aircraft that flew over Portland is registered to a company identified by journalists as a front company for the USMS. Media reports have previously revealed the USMS operates a fleet of surveillance aircraft equipped with invasive cellphone surveillance technology capable of secretly gathering information dragnet-style from tens of thousands of phones below. (Merkley press release)
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf rejected requests by Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to withdraw his officers from Portland. Brown said she told Wolf
that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm's way. This, coming from the same president who used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., to engineer a photo opportunity. (Mesh, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown)
The governor added, "Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa."
The governor and the mayor are right. I applaud them for standing firm. This is not Russia or Hong Kong or Israel. These police-state tactics have no place on American soil.
Editorial note: I am in no way backtracking on denunciation of protester violence and destruction and Portland City Council's abject failure to respond to it. The vacuum created by the city council's refusal to address the issue other than by hurling rhetorical bricks at the police bureau, which is, to be sure, part of the problem, but only part, provided the pretext for Trump and Wolf to move in their occupying force.
In the second paragraph the sentence about journalists was inserted after the piece was initially published.
Noelle Crombie and Evertion Bailey Jr., Homeland Security head visits Portland, calls demonstrators 'violent mob' and defends federal officers, The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 16, 2020
Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson, Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets, OPB, July 16, 2020
Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson, Political Fight Over Violence By Federal Officers In Portland Deepens, OPB, July 17, 2020
Aaron Mesh, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Says President Trump Is Invading Portland as an Election Stunt, Willamette Week, July 16, 2020
Senator Jeff Merkley press release, Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Schrader Ask Feds for Answers About Surveillance Flight Over Portland Protest
Piper McDaniel, Federal officers respond to Portland protests with gas, munitions Thursday amid growing attention from Trump administration, The Oregonian/OregonLive, updated July 17, 2020