The military-style federal squads sent by the Trump administration to protect U.S. buildings from graffiti were a bit slow on the uptake, but have now stolen a clever idea from protesters in Portland, Oregon: leaf blowers to redirect tear gas.
The hand-held machines were apparently first used earlier this week by protesters calling themselves “Fathers Against Fascism” (who joined the “Wall of Moms”) to blast tear gas back at federal forces. Other protesters have since adopted the idea. The leaf blowers are an innocuous clean-up tool that redirects toxins back at those who fired them.
Now the federal squads have their own blowers, according to The Associated Press. It’s not clear whether the appliances were purchased by the feds — or were confiscated from protesters.
The squads, now firing tear gas and leaf blowers, are adding to the “fog” of war as Portland’s downtown has been turned into a battle zone.
Far from quelling disruption in the city, the federal forces are exacerbating it and drawing new throngs of protesters outraged by the city’s occupying army, according to officials. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has characterized the deployments as “political theater” intended to provoke violence in a desperate bid by Donald Trump in his quest to win reelection.
Several videos posted on Twitter have shown federal squads attacking protesters for no apparent reason: striking them, jumping on them, blasting them in the face with gas.
Thirty local officials from both political parties have demanded the uninvited squads leave the city. “We condemn the actions undertaken by the officers — shooting unarmed protestors in the face, breaking the bones of protesting veterans, tear gassing parents,” said a letter they sent Friday to Trump and acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. “We call on you both to put an end to this at once.”
They added: “We also want to declare to the rest of the country that Portland is not a ‘city under siege.’ There are nightly protests in our downtown core – something with which we are quite familiar. These protests are a foundational part of our democracy and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Federal interference only inflames more animosity from those who have peaceably assembled.”
The federal squads were sent to protect statues and monuments from damage and graffiti by protesters. Wolf posted a long list of his critical concerns over “graffiti” by what he calls “violent anarchists” on the DHS website.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz has launched an investigation into use-of-force incidents against Portland protesters by federal agents.