Federal law enforcement agents are set to deploy to Portland, Oregon in greater numbers following the discovery of weapons caches in recent Antifa riots at the city’s federal courthouse, which have been going on for two months.
Federal officials say that the agents will be expanding the scope of their offensive against the anarcho-communist insurgents and investigating the groups organizing their nightly activities, which have caused parts of the city to lock down under the threat of violence, according to reports. Many stores in the city blocks surrounding the courthouse have been subject to vandalism and looting since riots began 60 days ago.
In addition to the deployment of “several dozen” new federal officers, Portland’s public radio station, OPB, suggests that officers may escalate their offensive against Antifa beyond non-lethal forms of crowd control, which have thus far been limited to pepper spray, flashbangs, and tear gas. The outlet did not provide a named source for the detail.
At present, a unit belonging to Customs and Border Control, called BORTAC, has been tasked with protecting the federal courthouse and a limited area surrounding the structure. The Portland Police Bureau, which was previously ordered not to cooperate by Mayor Ted Wheeler with federal law enforcement, have been quelling riots in the streets beyond the courthouse. Wheeler’s orders conflict with President Trump’s order for an “immediate surge” into the city last week.
The city of Portland has seen Black Lives Matter-oriented marches during the day, which have turned violent night after night as aggressive groups of black-clad Antifa attempt to storm the courthouse after sunset.
Over the weekend, some Antifa militants threw Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices at federal officers. Others brought electric saws, grappling lines, and hammers to tear down the security fence surrounding the courthouse.
Portland police reportedly discovered a cache of Molotov cocktails and loaded rifle magazines prior to the riots on Sunday. “Tonight Portland Police were near Lownsdale Square Park. A person pointed out a bag to them. Inside the bag Police found loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails,” police said.
Earlier that evening, two people were arrested following reports that a shot was fired at the same park. The altercation was captured on camera. The person believed to be the gunshot victim is reportedly being treated in hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, reports ABC News.
Since riots began, dozens of federal officers in the Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Portland have suffered injuries—including chemical burns, cuts, and concussions, many of which required hospitalization. The New York Post reports that three officers were reported to have suffered permanent blindness following the use of high-powered lasers directed at them by Antifa militants.
“A federal agent’s hand was impaled by planted nails, another federal agent was shot with a pellet gun, leaving a wound deep to the bone, and tragically, three federal officers were likely left permanently blinded by the rioters using lasers pointed directly into their eyes,” stated the White House on Friday.
An Associated Press reporter embedded with federal officers, Mike Balsamo, stated in his report that he saw officers suffer numerous injuries from rioters’ attacks.
“I watched as injured officers were hauled inside. In one case, the commercial firework came over so fast the officer didn’t have time to respond. It burned through his sleeves & he had bloody gashes on both forearms. Another had a concussion from being hit in the head [with] a mortar,” he wrote.
“It was really striking talking to the Deputy US Marshals who have been working to protect the courthouse for weeks. Many are from Portland. They have friends who peacefully protest during the day, but at night, they say demonstrations are hijacked by agitators set on violence.”
“A Deputy US Marshal told me, ‘I am worried for my life, every time I walk outside of the building’ [and] that feeling extends widely,” he added. “They are offended by being told to get out of Portland. They live there, work daily to take violent criminals off the street [and] it is their city too.”