Friday marked the 70th consecutive night of violent antifa riots in Portland. Early this month, the rioters shifted the focus of their violent attacks from the federal courthouse in downtown Portland to the Penumbra Kelly police building in a residential neighborhood. Since the clashes no longer center on federal property and federal law enforcement, the Democratic narrative of excusing or ignoring the violence in order to demonize federal officers and President Donald Trump has fallen apart. But myths about the federal involvement persist.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a document dispelling three big myths about the riots and the federal response.
DHS explained that on July 29, Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) “finally agreed to do what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has demanded for months: step up and work with federal authorities to stop the nightly criminal violence directed at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland. Such cooperation between federal and state/local law enforcement is routinely done in every city in the United States.”
“As a result of the governor’s long-delayed, though welcomed, change in direction, the area of the Hatfield Federal Courthouse has finally seen a stark downward trend in violence perpetrated towards federal facilities and federal law enforcement officers,” DHS added. Even so, “misconceptions and falsehoods persist.”
DHS focused on three specific myths.
1. Federal officers are withdrawing as police replace them
While state and local police are finally permitted to work with federal law enforcement as per Brown’s agreement, federal officers have not left the area. “There has been no reduction in federal presence; federal law enforcement officers remain in Portland at augmented levels,” DHS insisted. “DHS officers are working with a robust contingent of Oregon State Police (OSP) officers to secure the courthouse. OSP has been policing the property outside the fencing surrounding federal properties and has partnered with federal officers behind the fencing.”
The increased federal presence in Portland will remain “until the Department is certain that federal property is safe and a change in posture will not hinder DHS’s Congressionally mandated duty to protect it.”
DHS noted that “while the violence in Portland is much improved, the situation remains dynamic and volatile, with acts of violence still ongoing, and no determination of timetables for reduction of protective forces has yet been made. Evaluations remain ongoing.”
2. Violence is down because federal officers are less visible
Democrats and left-leaning activists and media outlets have pushed the narrative that President Donald Trump’s decision to send federal officers has exacerbated the violence in Portland. According to this narrative, the decreasing violence against federal property should be a direct result of the federal officers becoming less visible.
The violent riots long predated Trump’s decision, however. As DHS noted, “The increased presence of federal officers was a direct response to the longstanding violence already occurring in Portland. [Federal Protective Service officers] experienced nightly violence against federal officers and property going back to late May.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) tweeted on July 3 that the “nightly violence” had been “going on for more than a month” and needed to “end.” Portland Police had also declared multiple riots before federal presence increased.
“Simply put, just because the media and others were not paying as much attention to Portland’s violence prior to the DHS surge doesn’t mean the violence wasn’t occurring,” DHS added.
As DHS noted, Portland Police reported its highest number of homicide investigations in over 30 years after Wheeler decided to disband the police’s Gun Violence Reduction Team amid calls to defund police.
3. Violence decreased because state police are more effective than federal officers
DHS also addressed the idea that violence in Portland has decreased because Oregon State Police are more effective than federal officers.
In reality, “Portland’s current downward trend in riot activity is a direct result of long-awaited coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that DHS demanded to see on the ground for weeks,” DHS insisted.
“Every major American city regularly coordinates with DHS law enforcement to maintain law and order—particularly around federal properties entrusted to DHS for protection. For nearly two months, DHS demanded cooperation with state and local law enforcement in Portland. It wasn’t until DHS officers suffered more than 240 injuries that Oregon’s Governor finally agreed to do her job,” DHS added, scathingly.
The federal law enforcement department condemned “state and local officials” like Wheeler and Brown for having “put politics head of public safety.” This sent the message that rioters “could attack federal property and the officers defending it and then flee from the federal area of operations without any consequences from state or local law enforcement. Now that state and local leaders have finally agreed to step up and do their job, would-be rioters face the kind of coordinated enforcement response they should have been in place all along.”
Tragically, the violent antifa riots have continued in Portland as rioters target the Penumbra Kelly building instead of the federal courthouse.
On Friday night, rioters with body armor and shields squared off with police in a residential neighborhood. They threw concrete, frozen eggs, rocks, and commercial-grade fireworks at the cops in a riot that lasted well past 1 a.m.
Antifa brawl with Portland Police in residential part of SE Portland. The Youth Liberation Front earlier gathered in Laurelhurst Park to practice fighting with shields. #PortlandRiots pic.twitter.com/bIbYvFqyho
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 8, 2020
On Thursday, Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) finally vocally condemned the violent antifa rioters after the mob tried to burn down the Penumbra Kelly building on Wednesday night.
“The attack was immediate, it was intentional, and it was planned. It was intended to cause serious injury or death, and it very well could have,” Wheeler said at a press conference. “When you commit arson with an accelerant, in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people that you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating. You are attempting to commit murder.”
Why did he not issue similar condemnations when rioters repeatedly tried to burn down the federal courthouse — with federal officers inside? Wheeler should have condemned the violent riots using this kind of rhetoric from the beginning. Instead, he focused on blaming President Donald Trump.
Also on Thursday, Wheeler urged peaceful protesters to stay away from the crowds that would devolve into violent antifa riots. “If you are a non-violent demonstrator, and you don’t want to be part of intentional violence, please stay away from these areas. Our community must say that this violence is not Portland, that these actions do not reflect our values, and these crimes are distracting from reform, not advancing it,” he said.
Why did he not issue such a warning earlier? Rather than condemning the riots, Wheeler himself joined the riots in person. Even as rioters set off explosives at the federal courthouse behind him, Wheeler insisted that the federal officers had no justification for using tear gas.
The twisted leftist narrative about the riots is finally falling apart. Even The New York Times has admitted the violence and destruction of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) “autonomous zone” in Seattle, which the paper once hailed as a “homeland for racial justice.” As the narrative continues to fall apart, Democrats should pay a steep political price for lying about the violence for two months.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.