Portland. Oregon. It’s been about two months now of Portland fighting back against a federal invasion. The days seem to blur together; memories of flashbangs at my heels are nestled safely between memories of crawling into bed or eating hot dogs at Riot Ribs. No matter what day it is though- the feds are losing. Not only are they being humiliated by their actions (enough to warrant a Buzzfeed article), but their physical tactics are a complete joke in the face of Moms armed with a steel resolve and the Dads with leafblowers.
A touch after 10 pm I was making my way from Pioneer Square, a cloud of worry about rumors of federal agents snatching people off the street simply for wearing black hovering over my head as I hightailed my way to the Injustice Center. From several blocks away I could already hear the cacophony of protestors. Several thousand people had crowded in the parks and surrounding areas. Tents were set up around Riot Ribs – it’s almost a commune, albeit ones with daily attacks from a hostile army. The lamps in most of the parks are either broken or note being powered on, so I navigated around the tents and clusters of people using little bits of light that shone through the leaves or flashes from people’s headlights.
Closer to the fence, protestors were shining strobe lights and lasers into the new murderholes that the feds had built. Very similar to the old ones, but placed higher so the federal agents could get a better vantage point to shoot at the people of Portland.
A touch before 11, there was a minimal police presence, just an SUV (later I was informed this was the supervisor’s vehicle) on Jefferson and 3rd being blocked off by a Wall of Moms. Fireworks sprinkled the air at a distance.
As the day dwindled into its last hour, a small object soared through the air in a graceful arc and fell on the Fed side of the fence. The doors flew open, revealing several people dressed to literally kill standing in the entryway, guns pointed, frantically searching for the alpha predator who had thrown the object. DJ LRAD tried to make an announcement but was immediately drowned out by the roaring of the crowd.
Then began a standoff that lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Fireworks went off on both sides of the fence, garbage was thrown over the fence and set on fire, and strobe lights were used. People with shields flowed through the crown, congealing at the very front line, holding up shields made of various materials up against the fence, inhibiting the agent’s abilities to fire at protestors. A crew of people with leafblowers followed closely on the tail of the shield-bloc. I retreated into the park, fumbling with my gas mask and helmet as tension at the fence increased.
I hustled back to the fence in time to see a small fire being set on the garbage previously mentioned. It is extinguished and then re-lit. DJ LRAD tried again, in vain, to issue some sort of warning that nobody wanted to hear. On the other side of the Injustice Center, someone blared “Fuck Donald Trump”.
Midnight came and went. Normally, midnight marked the time when we would be getting teargassed and rushed by federal agents or PPB. Over 2,000 people were still there, and getting less peaceful as time went on. Underneath my feet the fence rattled, threatening to give in. A handsaw and a pair of boltcutters glinted in the flashes of fireworks, chewing through the fence like a dog on a bone.
Finally, the tension burst. Gas canisters were lobbed at the protestors, bouncing off the ground, spewing gas into people’s faces. The bloc of people with leaf blowers immediately jumped into action, using their garden tools to blow the tear gas back to where it came from. Federal agents lobbed more and more, only for those to also be blown back. The fire in front of the courthouse grew larger. By 1 AM, the smoke was so thick you could not see the Justice Center if you were standing on the sidewalk across the street. Folks with gas masks remained at the front; gathering munition canisters for evidence, holding the shield line up, or just plain yelling at the cops. Ropes began to appear on the fence and started trying to pull them down. Now, these fences are giant metal monstrosities, that sit out in the bike lane and are held in place by massive concrete blocks.
After a while, at around 1:26 am federal agents were spotted coming out the side and back of the building and rapidly approaching the crowd on Main Street. Someone announced, “Walk, don’t run!” over the sound of fireworks.
More explosions ring through the air as the crowd tries to move away from the feds. We were pushed and managed to hold the line for a while near the Jimmy Johns. A tear gas canister lands in my feet and three people around me immediately jumped into action, kicking it away from me and putting a traffic cone over it to extinguish it with water. While the air was still thick with gas, people attempted to re-take the park. Again, they were driven back. It was a back and forth for a while, but eventually, the feds retreated into their hive.
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