The rise of Federal repression in Portland, OR shows that our actions and movement work for Black Lives have Trump and the Right afraid. The powerful uprisings led by Black Lives Matter protestors in Portland, OR and across the nation have shifted public consciousness around the destructive role of police and the demands for resources that create real safety in communities. The despicable violence, repression, and terrorism being directed towards organizers by federal agents tramples on our civil liberties and is it highlighting their fear. They want to have a chilling effect on our movements— they want to instill fear and slow us down as we take action to support Black-lead organizing and demands.
And we cannot allow that to happen.
What we know so far
Since the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others, the Portland community sustained over 50 days of continuous protest against police brutality. Beginning last week, federal paramilitary-type forces of varying and unknown origins (many identified as Customs and Border Patrol officers for Homeland Security) began grabbing protestors off the streets without just cause, transporting them to unknown locations, and holding them without arrest warrants. These same forces have been documented using brutal force, indiscriminately releasing chemical weapons into crowds, and peppering community members with “less than lethal” ammunition. Dozens have been hospitalized.
On Wednesday, Trump, along with Attorney General Bill Barr, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and FBI Director Chris Wray stated that they will be deploying officers from the Justice Department, Federal agents, and the Department of Homeland Security in cities, allegedly to address crime, but we also understand it as a mechanism to put an end to uprisings and directly target Black and Brown communities. An internal memo from the acting secretary of homeland security stated that this type of federal escalation, known as Operation Legend, can be expected to be the new normal.
In the face of this violence and intimidation, the Portland community continues to take to the streets, to protest the injustices, and has refused to yield to state repression. We must defend our civil liberties and take action in solidarity with the people of Portland, not only to stop what is happening there, but what is quickly spreading across the country.
The tactics being employed — snatch and grab, intimidation, physical violence, kidnapping among others — are threats to community safety and completely illegal. While the Attorney General of Oregon and the ACLU have both sued Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service, we know that this country has a long history of conveniently disregarding legality when it pertains to public uprisings that threaten the status quo. The powerful social movements for racial justice in the 1960’s led by groups like the Black Panthers and Young Lords were targeted by Federal groups because they saw the power they were building.
The fact that the government is responding in this way suggests that we are winning — and they are afraid.
We need to continue to build this momentum and act in solidarity with the people of Portland and all of the communities of color who have always been the targets of Federal law enforcement for decades — including Black leaders, Muslims, and immigrants and who will continue to be targeted in the coming months.
Immigrant rights groups warned of this
For years, immigrant rights activist groups at the Southern U.S. border have detailed the brutality and lack of accountability of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers towards undocumented migrants and reported on the deployment of CBP agents as early as six days after George Floyd’s murder. These exact same tactics have been tested and employed against refugees and migrants in the last decade since DHS was founded. The unchecked growth and lack of accountability of CBP over the last ten years resulted in the violence we are seeing today.
We acknowledge that the degree of public outrage directed towards Portland protestors in this moment is related to race, class, and citizenship privilege. We mourn the violence, disappearances, and murders of countless migrants at the hands of CBP. We call on everyone moved by the state repression we are witnessing in Portland to use this moment to deepen your solidarity with migrant, Indigenous, and Black communities who have been facing similar but different forms of sanctioned state violence and murder from CBP and police.
What you can do right now
Join a phone zap : We’re organizing a mass phone call to Congresspeople for next Wednesday. Sign up here.
Attend our next Training on Resisting State Repression on August 4th: Register here.
Defund the Police — The victories we are seeing locally in cutting police budgets and pushing for alternatives to the police are part of what has caused this move by Trump. Let’s keep winning locally, and also, let’s Abolish ICE and Defund Department of Homeland Security.
Know Your Rights: These images are a good starting point for how to protect yourself from police and Federal Agents. Check out the National Lawyers Guild for more know your rights and other resources. Stay posted for a series of webinars we’ll host about protecting yourselves and your chapters.
We rise with Portland and all other areas being hit by this unconscionable over-reach of the federal government.