Since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, protests have spread across the United States, and not all of them were peaceful. From the start, President Donald Trump blamed Antifa and violent anarchists for taking advantage of the protest movement to start chaos on the streets of major cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
Over the last four years, a lot of protests have become violent in Portland. Still, many people say that the recent violence is because of the federal agents in town. The Trump administration cited threats to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Federal Courthouse by protesters as the reason for their presence in the city and sent in federal law enforcement under to protect federal property.
Opposition to federal involvement came from all of Oregon’s executive branch. Attorney General Rosenblum tried to sue the Trump administration for infringing on the state’s law enforcement responsibilities and jurisdiction, bringing into question whether President Trump’s order was lawful in the first place.
While the presence of federal agents upset protesters in Portland, there were plenty of examples of violence already in the city. Dozens of videos surfaced, showing demonstrators throwing light explosives, firecrackers, frozen water bottles, and other items at federal agents. Many were arrested and charged with arson for throwing explosives and firebombs at the courthouse.
Ultimately, violence in Portland has finally come to a slow with the announcement that federal law enforcement would leave. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Oregon Governor Kate Brown had agreed on the withdrawal on the condition of continued protection of federal property by Oregon State Police in downtown Portland. Before this agreement, Portland officers were ordered not to interfere with the protests outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, and state troopers were nowhere to be seen. Both sides of the debate have claimed victory, with Democrats against the federal presence in the city praising the governor and Republicans supporting the rule of law praising the Trump administration for forcing the state to do its job in protecting federal property and law enforcement buildings. Both sides will continue to claim victory over the situation due to its significant political impact over the last few weeks. Still, the precedent these events have created will undoubtedly increase the willingness of citizens and law enforcement to use violence against one other, knowing their side will back them regardless of the outcome.