The mayor of Portland was teargassed on Wednesday night as he met with demonstrators protesting against police brutality and the deployment of federal troops into United States cities ordered by President Donald Trump. He said that he saw no provocation to warrant the aggressive behavior, and called it "flatout urban warfare".
Early on Friday in the latest in a series of clashes, federal agents fired tear gas canisters at Black Lives Matter demonstrators in central Portland in a 56th straight day of protests.
A federal judge in OR on Thursday afternoon issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting federal officers deployed in Portland from using physical force against news reporters and legal observers documenting the ongoing protests and riots in that city.
Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf denied that federal agents were inflaming the situation in Portland. It alleges that federal agents have used rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, batons and stun grenades against medics in violation of federal protections for freedom of speech and freedom of movement.
Wheeler has opposed federal agents' presence in Oregon's largest city but has also faced harsh criticism from the protesters, who yelled and swore at him.
The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has sided with demonstrators in their call for federal officers to leave the city, accusing them of using aggressive tactics against protesters.
National media blanketed the story of federal agents firing on a leader of a major US city.
Then, the federal force used big doses of tear gas as a kind of herding tool to push the protesters further from the courthouse. Federal forces have struck protesters with batons, fired pepper spray and tear gas, and used unmarked vehicles to detain people, prompting legal action from the OR attorney general and civil rights campaigners.
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While Wheeler was speaking in front of the barricaded Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, where federal agents have stationed themselves, the crowd booed many of his statements, demanding the mayor do more to address police reforms in the city. "Journalists should be identified by either a press pass or clothing that identifies them a press". Barr said the additional agents will focus on "classic crime fighting", expanding an existing operation that sent federal agents to Kansas City, Missouri, after a 4-year-old boy's shooting death.
Rosenblum, the state attorney general, said she wanted the court to "declare it not acceptable for federal officers to use unconstitutional, police-state-type acts to detain citizens of OR without cause".
But Trump, who is running for re-election on November 3 in part on a campaign of "law and order", has threatened to deploy federal forces in multiple cities run by Democratic mayors, saying he is concerned about a spike in crime.
Before Wednesday, mayoral staff members were split on whether Wheeler should attend alone or with a group of city and community leaders, whether his appearance would agitate the crowd or be seen as an attempt to distract from the message of local police reform and whether it would be safe for him to be there. He told one protester: "I'm not going to leave".
"I don't want to say I was lied to, but I think there was maybe semantics that weren't forthcoming", she said.
The arrests come amid increasing scrutiny of the federal response to the riots and protests in Portland.
President Donald Trump defended the deployment of federal officers, stating that his administration is "trying to help Portland, not hurt it".