Will Trump Step Up Federal Intervention in Portland?

AP Photo/Noah Berger

There is no silent Trump majority seething about months of civil unrest and leftist terrorism in these parts. Portland progressives are seething however, or at least simmering unhappily, and have been since President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. A considerable majority of citizens hereabouts took the president’s victory as a catastrophic disaster. The outcome of Election 2016 quantifiably ruined the day-to-day existence of many people in Oregon’s largest city.


A manifestation of that ruination is playing out on the streets today. The violent civil unrest in the downtown core will soon enter its third month.

While downtown is always ground zero for anti-conservative, anti-Republican protests, riots, and domestic terrorism, the mindset that willfully countenances and abets such turmoil stretches to the absolute city limits. Portland progressives “tsk, tsk” when things get out of hand, and talk the talk of decrying violent and destructive aspects of the unrest. But deep down they know that since the advent of Donald Trump, certain bets about certain actions are off. The well-behaved denizens of the better neighborhoods would never throw a garbage can through the window of an Amazon store, a homemade firework at a phalanx of riot police, or a Molotov cocktail at a federal van. But rooted in the psyche of the people residing in the largely quiet surrounding neighborhoods is the belief that the angst of antifa and other agitators is, at least theoretically, warranted.

In the minds of the far-left Portland populace, the actions of the violent mobs who’ve taken over the streets are understandable, if not openly condonable. Protesters by the thousands show up downtown to voice their dissent early in the evenings, a show of solidarity with the cause. When darkness falls, the mostly peaceful among them draw back and leave the field to the hardcore agitators. But it’s not the anarchists who are seen as the villains. It is the federal agents here to protect federal personnel and federal buildings. A considerable majority of people in Portland see retributive justice in the idea of the state attorney general suing the federal government for showing up in town to protect their own property.


The people of Portland consistently and repeatedly elect and reelect politicians like Mayor Ted Wheeler. Unbelievably, from their perspective, he’s the one who’s got their backs. The electorate here is totally down with rationalizing the violent vanguard that is taking to the streets what a majority of them believe in their hearts: that America is systematically racist, and Donald Trump is an abomination as president. In the collective act of “tsk, tsking” and turning away from the violence, they embolden the harbingers of chaos and embolden politicians who won’t take effective measures to stop them.

But as Mr. Wheeler found out this week, all-in is not far enough.

Portland is a fully Democrat-run city. Running Republican in this neck of the woods is pure political theater, without a prayer of getting elected. The state GOP holds sway only in Red Oregon, the rural lands east of the I-5 corridor, which always go Republican, but because of the corridor population centers, have little chance of electing anybody to statewide office.

Local news affiliates report every night on the violence in carefully-couched packages, written by programming editors so that nothing can be construed as overt criticism of a local government that has aided and abetted a descent into permanent turmoil. Subtle criticism of Trump and the feds is always a grotesque transition away, woven into the spin with downtown Portland’s war zone as a backdrop. Local media has little choice; any credit or even fairness extended to Trump will prompt a deathblow-ratings demographic to angrily switch to broadcast media where subtle and not-so-subtle Trump disparagement rules the roost. The paper of record, the Oregonian, has not published a single article praising the president for anything he’s done in three-plus years.


The downtown anarchists, the well-behaved progressives in the quiet neighborhoods, the local media…each of these entities dissent in different ways. But the combined effect, the hoped-for end following the means, is always the same: it’s always Trump’s fault, and the fault of the people who voted for him. A second term for this president must be thwarted by any means necessary.

Anyone with doubts about where the city is headed, about the black-is-white, up-is-down nature of the philosophical and ideological incongruities running rampant in the City of Roses, is advised to keep such doubts to themselves. Unless they see themselves as reactionaries willing to put everything on the line.

Everything—including big-ticket civic celebrations like the annual Rose Festival and Blues Festival—had already been canceled downtown, due to COVID. It’s hard to imagine anything having gone on anyway, in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The riots are ongoing only blocks from Waterfront Park.

It is into this political and cultural environment that the Trump administration sent federal law enforcement personnel to protect federal property.

Could an expanded federal mission be in the offing?

Here’s an illustrative quote from the president involving another Pacific Northwest cauldron of domestic terrorism, Seattle’s “CHAZ” zone, after the president’s threats to intervene prompted local law enforcement to take back the streets.


 I’m glad to see, in Seattle, they took care of the problem, because as they know, we were going in. We were ready to go in and they knew that too. And they went in and they did what they had to do.

We can only speculate about such a mission expansion in Portland, but it would not be a giant leap for federal enforcement personnel to fan out from the buildings they’re defending and deploy more broadly against rioters who have damaged property to the tune of millions of dollars, injured members of the local police force, and turned several city blocks downtown into an after-hours no/go zone.

Mark Ellis is the author of A Death on the Horizon, a finalist in the 14th annual National Indie Excellence Awards in the category of General Fiction. Follow Mark on Twitter.







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