Democrats and media outlets fumed over President Trump for sending in "unidentified" and "unmarked" federal law enforcement officers to quash the "mostly peaceful" protests in Portland, Oregon. They claimed it was the final stages of fascism that had come to the United States and was meant to be a distraction from the Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The unmarked federal agents arresting people in Portland, explained," Vox's headline stated.
"'Secret police force': Feds reportedly pull Portland protesters into unmarked vehicles, stirring outrage," USA Today reported.
"Mysterious arrest video with unidentified police raises questions," was how CNN reported on the situation.
"Unidentified Federal Agents Are Detaining Protesters in Portland," New York Magazine warned.
First Amendment speech should never be met with one-sided violence from federal agents acting as Trump’s secret police, especially when unidentified. This is disgraceful behavior we would expect from a banana republic — not the government of the United States.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 18, 2020
A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump’s secret police. Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 16, 2020
We didn't ask for these troops in our cities. We don't want these troops in our cities. pic.twitter.com/x9UOrBDX7E— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) July 21, 2020
.@RepMaxineWaters on DHS sending agents to Portland as riots continue: "As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that this is a trial run by the president of the United States who may be organizing to not accept what happens when we have the election if he’s not elected." pic.twitter.com/54a2DHDx7l— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) July 22, 2020
The "secret police" narrative really kicked off after video showing officers arresting someone and taking them away in an unmarked van. Because of the poor camerawork from the woman recording the video and it was nighttime, it was hard to see the patches on their arm that showed what agency they were with, however, you could see the big "POLICE" patch on their chests.
During my time in Portland last week, I was able to see what agency the officers were with, whether it was the U.S. Marshalls, Customs and Border Protection, or the Department of Homeland Security. The officers also did not act without first being attacked.
On Tuesday night, the Federal Protective Service gave at least six warnings to the crowd that had gathered to stop throwing projectiles and heavy-duty fireworks, stop starting fires, and breaching the fencing that had been put up around the Hatfield Federal Courthouse. When it became clear they would not stop and leave on their own, officers then came out to push rioters away from the fence.
Officers who were tasked with putting out the fires with hoses were attacked by rioters who continued to throw glass bottles and fireworks, which they then responded to by firing pepper balls and throwing flashbangs. It started to become particularly dangerous for the officers as some of the "fireworks" being thrown were not actually fireworks, but improvised explosives.
A Portland man has been charged with arson after throwing a large explosive device at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse during a protest on July 28, 2020. Investigation by @USMarshalsHQ and @ATF_Seattle. Read more: https://t.co/UTh2KnA4k5 pic.twitter.com/ImmuQMBbhm— U.S. Attorney Oregon (@USAO_OR) July 31, 2020
Wednesday night saw similar action, where again, federal officers did not come out to stop rioters until they were given at least two warnings from FPS. The unmarked vans made their appearances early Thursday morning and they were used to try to arrest the rioters who were throwing projectiles by the fence. Officers were unsuccessful in apprehending anyone at that moment.
Since I was wearing a blue ballistic vest marked "PRESS," I did not have any issues with the federal officers. When I was behind their line to get video from their perspective, one U.S. Marshal asked if I was taking care of myself and warned it was a dangerous place to be. Right after that conversation, a rioter threw a firework and all hell broke loose again, the officers deployed tear gas and fell back. The marked DHS vehicle I was close to was started to get hit with projectiles.
More from last night: I was behind a small perimeter federal agents had set up when I and other media members got caught in the crossfire between officers and rioters. Feds pulled away and rioters threw back tear gas canisters and other projectiles. pic.twitter.com/arcvMeWo3C— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) July 30, 2020
As for the officers not having their names visible, instead having unique numbers and letters on their uniforms, that is to protect them from doxxing attempts. Protesters in Virginia have already shown up to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf's home and have promised to return.
While it made for good headlines and tweets, the officers that had to be deployed to Portland were not "secret police" "stormtroopers" that were just terrorizing women, children, and puppies at 100% peaceful protests. From what I saw, officers only responded after enduring hours of attacks from the crowd.