Judge to Feds in Portland: "Don't Target Press" -- Feds: "Everyone Else Is a Target," Escalate Efforts Thurs. Night

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Late Friday afternoon, Oregon Federal District Judge Michael Simon granted the ACLU a Temporary Restraining Order against the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service.  The order prohibits federal law enforcement agents with those entities from targeting either members of the press or attorney observers from organizations such as the ACLU, while taking action as part of their law enforcement activities around the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland.

The issuance of the order was met with great fanfare, but the substance of the order is pretty mild.  The complaint filed by the ACLU includes anecdotal allegations from several press members covering the riots, as well as people calling themselves observers and not participants in the rioting.  Those individuals claimed federal agents intentionally targeted them with pepper spray balls, tear gas canisters, and non-lethal impact munitions even though they had identified themselves as being with the press, were engaged in taking pictures, and had physically separated themselves from protesters to demonstrate they were not participants in the rioting.

The substance of Judge Simon’s order is, basically, quit doing that.  His order does not cover crowd control measures, nor does it address the law enforcement response to rioters.  It simply specifies that where the law enforcement agents are able to distinguish the press and observers from the rioters, they should not purposely target the press and observers.  His order expressly allows that it is not a violation if the press or observers are inadvertently caught up in crowd control measures aimed at rioters, so the rioters are not going to be able to use the press as shields.

The order directed both agencies to issue written directives to the law enforcement agents stationed at the federal courthouse in Portland explaining his order, and the limitations on the actions of the agents.

I obtained a copy of one of the written directives, and found it to be succinct and to the point:

Ladies & Gentlemen:  Judge Simon authorized federal law enforcement agents to use all available crowd control measures at the rioters.  Make it happen.  P.S.  Don’t shoot at the press unless they are in the way.

Here’s some video of the Federal Agents following the Court’s order.

This guy wasn’t displaying a press pass nor wearing an ACLU vest:

Let’s check that out again on replay from another angle.

“Anyone see a press pass?  No?  Let ’em have it.”

More of the same.

A few days ago, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf visited Portland and reviewed the tactical plan with the on-site supervisors.  Since that meeting, a pattern has developed where the federal agents inside the federal courthouse  remain hidden and out of sight so long as the protesters remain “peaceful.”  They seem to exercise quite a bit of patience and restraint well into the evening, and continually broadcast warnings about the kinds of activity that will prompt a law enforcement response.  But provoking that very response is what the rioters want, and they simply continue to scale up their activities until they get one.  The “peaceful protesters” have mostly gone home, and at that point, it’s just a matter of the feds against the agitators.  In that circumstance, the gloves come off and the feds make the idiots pay a price.

This has become a nightly ritual in the last week.  What the rioters and their sympathizers don’t seem to grasp is that the feds will not leave — they can’t.  If the feds were to leave the Portland courthouse, the same conduct would be repeated at courthouses and federal buildings around the country.  There are 94 federal judicial districts, and most have more than one courthouse.  My guess is we are talking about 150-175 buildings at least — not counting separate federal buildings in bigger metropolitan areas where the Courthouse and federal building are not under one roof.

There are plenty of law enforcement agents from numerous agencies who can rotate in and play the same role that BORTAC from Border Patrol is playing right now.  Some of the best trained — and most effective — “riot control” officers are in the Bureau of Prisons.  They can be cross-designated by the US Marshal Service and serve as Special Deputy US Marshals.  Those dudes ARE trained in riot control in ways the Antifa/BLM types do not want to experience.  A little known fact is that on a numerical basis, the Bureau of Prisons has more bodies than any other federal law enforcement agency.  And COVID-19 is significantly reducing the federal prison population across the country.  A lot of those guys are standing around bored in their day jobs.  A duty assignment to Portland means hotel rooms, free food, per diem, and not dealing with federal inmates.

The feds will keep playing this game as long as the rioters want to keep it up.  More and more will be arrested every night, and charged with federal felonies.  There was a story earlier on Twitter that the FBI has quietly opened a criminal investigation targeting the leadership of the protests looking for evidence of conspiracy to commit rioting offenses in violation of federal law.  I’m 100% certain there are undercover federal agents mixed in with there protest groups trying to identify the leadership.  Working that process will probably take a couple of weeks before cases get indicted.

The beauty of the federal system is that in a state with only one federal judicial district like Oregon, grand jurors and trial jurors are drawn from the entire state.  No trials in front of just the liberal residents of Portland.  Rioters facing federal criminal trials will face the judgment of Oregon citizens drawn from across the entire state.

Maybe Antifa and BLM leadership should spend a day in Bend, and see how they are treated there.