(TMU) – Last week, federal agents were deployed to Portland, Oregon, where protests have continued in support of police reform and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The presence of federal agents in the city sparked outrage throughout the country after videos surfaced online showing unidentified officers snatching protesters off the streets and throwing them into unmarked vans. In recent days, protests in Portland have further intensified in response to the deployment of federal agents.
Local authorities also say that they want the federal agents out of the city, but President Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland security have said that they “don’t need an invitation” and intend on staying until the protests are stopped.
On Wednesday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined with protesters to speak to them directly about their concerns.
“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city The reason this is important is it is not just happening in Portland … we’re on the front line here in Portland,” Wheeler said.
While speaking with protesters outside of a courthouse, Wheeler was teargassed, presumably by federal agents seeking to disperse the crowd that had gathered.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the federal agents knew Wheeler was in the crowd when they used the tear gas, according to the Associated Press.
“It stings. It’s hard to breathe. I can tell you with 100% honesty I saw nothing that provoked this response. I’m not afraid but I am pissed off,” Wheeler told a nearby reporter after the gas was deployed.
Earlier in the night, the Mayor was criticized by protesters because he previously authorized Portland Police Bureau to use tear gas. Some protesters even held signs that referenced “Tear Gas Ted,” a nickname that the mayor was given in the early days of the protests.
Local officials have made some legal attempts to block federal agents in the city. On Wednesday, the City Council banned police from cooperating with federal agents or arresting reporters or lawyers.
Over the past 100 years, the use of tear gas has become ubiquitous among the police and military forces of authoritarian regimes all over the world. This chemical agent is commonly used, and is often called a “less-lethal weapon” by authorities and their supportive media, which causes many people to forget that this is a chemical weapon that is banned in warfare by the Geneva Convention.
Despite chemical weapons being banned in international conflicts, individual governments insisted on the power to use the gas against its own citizens, because they claimed that it was their only option to suppress demonstrations without using lethal force. However, this excuse entirely ignores that allowing the protesters to demonstrate, or succumbing to their demands could be a potential option.
The use of these chemical agents on protesters sends a clear message that their voice is not welcome and that their demands will not be taken seriously by authorities. In many cases, the use of tear gas causes further blowback from protesters, and does little to de-escalate conflicts between protesters and police.
After being tear gassed in a crowd, Portland’s mayor and police commissioner Ted Wheeler denounced federal officers for “urban warfare.”Some protesters, recalling the city police’s past use of tear gas, mocked him: “You better be here every night, Ted!” https://nyti.ms/39mQgsP
Posted by The New York Times on Thursday, July 23, 2020
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