A Portland, Oregon, Navy veteran was pummeled with a baton by a member of the federal squads dispatched to the city by the Trump administration — then was blasted directly in the face with pepper spray for doing ... nothing.
Chris David, 53, has become a folk hero and hailed as a “man of steel” after a video of the brutal Saturday night confrontation was viewed online by more than 3 million people. (See the video above.)
“I felt these gentlemen were violating their oath of office” — to uphold the Constitution — “and I wanted to talk to them,” David told the Portland Tribune, which was the first to publish the video. The armed squads, dressed in military-style uniforms but without identifying information, have reportedly been grabbing people off the streets during protests and detaining and questioning them in what some consider extralegal kidnappings.
David, who was wearing his Naval Academy sweatshirt and a Navy wrestling hat, said he “stood there with my hands down by my side, and they just started whaling on me,” he told KOIN-TV.
When that didn’t faze him, one of the squad members, wearing fatigues and a gas mask, sprayed two thick blasts of tear gas into his face from inches away, which David said felt like “a gallon of burning gasoline.”
That’s when he wheeled away from the men and flipped them off as he stumbled toward a park and lost his vision, David recounted. He was aided by a “street-medic angel” who helped him get to a hospital.
David’s hand was broken in two places. He said he’ll likely need “pins and plates” to fix it.
David told CNN that he’s “100% against” the federal squads in the city. “It’s a unilateral move that’s being made in order to generate chaos and great divisiveness” that’s only causing the protests to grow.
David — a U.S. Naval Academy grad who served as a commissioned officer in the Seabees and as a Navy engineer — said he’s not superman.
“I’m a 53-year-old overweight man on blood thinners, and I’ve got a lot of physical damage from my years in the military,” he told KOIN. “I’m no man of steel. They could have killed me ... as my ex-wife and my daughter have reminded me 45 times.”
Still, he added, “I plan to go back. This won’t stop me.”
“It’s just us normal people out there,” he told The Washington Post. “You hear people like Trump say it’s just a bunch of wacko fringe people in liberal cities who are out there, but no way. We’re all just normal people who think what’s happening is wrong.”
The uninvited federal squads were dispatched to Portland last week by the Trump administration to prevent vandalism at federal monuments and buildings. Instead, they’ve been roving around downtown Portland in unmarked rental vans and snatching residents.
The administration is preparing to send more of the controversial squads to other Democratic cities, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday.
As justification for the assault on Portland, federal authorities have cited a June 26 executive order by President Donald Trump directing them to protect federal monuments and buildings. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has listed “graffiti” concerns by “violent anarchists” in Portland on the DHS website.
Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told CNN he was reserving judgment on the David video. He appeared to attempt to smear the Navy vet, saying that his officers operate based on shadowy “intelligence” about “threats to federal facilities.”
David responded that Cuccinelli can’t see “what’s obvious to millions of other people ... that I was standing there peacefully and then they beat me” for “no reason.”
David received a massive outpouring of offers of help after the video surfaced. He declined the offers but urged people instead to help the Black Lives Matter movement and the medic group that helped him.
He also put in a plug for the U.S. Navy wrestling team and added: “Go Navy!”
The outraged Twitterverse fell in love.
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