More than 2,000 people flooded downtown Portland overnight during the 57th day of protests in Oregon‘s largest city, where President Trump has deployed federal agents despite the city’s outspoken opposition to the move.
Just hours after a federal judge blocked U.S. agents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at protests, agents appeared to deploy tear gas early Friday to force thousands of demonstrators from crowding around the federal courthouse.
At least 100 agents were on the ground during some portion of the night, according to The Oregonian.
Following a larger Black Lives Matter rally, demonstrators faced off against federal officers at the courthouse.
Protesters had projected lasers on the building and attempted to take down a security fence that had been reinforced to keep demonstrators at a distance. The protesters moved away as clouds of gas rose from the area and flash grenades could be heard. In other instances, they used leaf blowers to push the noxious gas back toward law enforcement.
Police, who have said they are not involved in the federal government’s response, urged demonstrators to leave the area and, using a loudspeaker, warned people of the potential use of tear gas, according to the report.
Earlier in the night, activists stressed to The Oregonian that the focus of the protests – which began in May after the police killing of George Floyd – “has been moved from where it is supposed to be and made to be a spectacle,” explained E.D. Mondainé, president of a local branch of the NAACP.
Trump defended the government’s decision to take action in Portland on Thursday night during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying, “We had to do it.”
“They’re anarchists,” Trump said. “That’s even, that’s a level that people haven’t seen but they’re anarchists.”
On Wednesday, Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler and hundreds of others were objecting to the presence of federal police sent by Trump, who previously labeled the demonstrators as “agitators & anarchists” after Wheeler was gassed.
The Justice Department’s inspector general said Thursday it will review the conduct of federal agents who responded to unrest in Portland and in Washington, D.C., after concerns emerged from members of Congress and the public.
City Council members accused Wheeler of not reining in police who used tear gas multiple times on protesters before federal agents arrived. And city business leaders have condemned the mayor for not bringing the situation under control before the agents showed up.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf denied that federal agents were inflaming the situation. He told “CBS This Morning” that Wheeler legitimized criminality by going to the front of the crowd of demonstrators where the fires were lit and where people were trying to pull down a security fence.
Wheeler did not participate in lighting any of the fires or attempting to tear down the fence and was surrounded by his security team when he was gassed.
Police said the crowd has thrown Molotov cocktails, lit fires in a park and in trash cans and released hundreds of gallons of water from fire hydrants.