The Friday night protests outside of Federal buildings in Portland, Oregon were joined by a self-described “Wall of Vets.” According to media reports from the scene, the veterans declared they were there to protect the free speech of the protesters. The veterans were also joined by other groups calling themselves “Wall of Moms” and “Wall of Dads.”
The tense scene ended the way so many others have, with the crowd dispersing after law enforcement officers fired tear gas into them.
Duston Obermeyer, a Marine Corps veteran and graduate of the Naval Academy, said to the NYT that the veterans were “there to ensure our citizens did not have their right to free speech and their right to protest and right to assemble taken away from them.”
“Our veterans are here to support specifically the rights of the protesters,” he added.
In an interview with the Guardian, Obermeyer said, “They are not supposed to be coming and attacking protesters. They didn’t even give any warning, there was no, ‘hey you need to move,’ ‘hey back up.’ There was basically them walking out and assaulting a protester just to prove that they could.”
In the video, Obermeyer can be seen getting sprayed in the face with a chemical irritant. He said the spray was worse than anything he had encountered in his years in the Marine Corps and that it closed up his nose and eyes and made it extremely difficult to breathe.
The protests that have been ongoing for the past two months since the death of George Floyd. However, after protests in several cities turned violent, the federal government ordered federal law enforcement officers to deploy to a number of cities, including Portland. Federal officers have taken a very different approach than local police.
With federal buildings being threatened, the Feds have been using much more aggressive tactics including tear gas and other non-lethal means to push crowds back. They have also started arresting some protesters.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon governor Kate Brown have demanded that federal agents leave the town as the tear gas and arrests are “making things worse.” Brown called the federal agents’ involvement “a blatant abuse of power.” Wheeler, who joined the protests and was tear-gassed along with several other protesters.
Wheeler admitted on “Cuomo Prime Time” that there had been violence in the protest he took part in, but it had dissipated, only to be reinvigorated by the arrival of federal law enforcement officers.
“Before the feds arrived, the situation was contained,” Wheeler said. “The nightly violence had dissipated. We were seeing smaller crowds. The energy had gone out of those crowds. And then they showed up, the entire thing blew up.” Wheeler added, “This was created directly by the Trump administration.”
“The president is using these federal forces as his own personal militia, I believe for the purpose of political grandstanding. He’s doing this.” Wheeler said. “He’s creating the chaos in Democratically controlled cities so, ironically, he can point to the chaos and then say, ‘Look, those Democratically controlled cities are in chaos and I, and only I, can stop the chaos.’ I think this is abhorrent and it’s a clear political stunt.”