Portland Overnight Riot Report -- Kind of Boring, but Federal Judge Provides High Comedy

AP Photo/Noah Berger
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Federal agents use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Officers used teargas and projectiles to move the crowd after some protesters tore down a fence fronting the courthouse. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)


I didn’t post an over-night riot report for Portland early this morning because — there were no overnight riots.  Here’s just a couple videos of what it looked like last night, showing that there is a difference between “protesting” and “rioting.”

Once again the magical coincidence of the Oregon State Police and Portland PD clearing out the parks across from the Courthouse, and preventing the streets around the courthouse from being staging grounds or areas for the rioters to retreat to has, has aligned perfectly with the absence of rioters trying to burn down the Courthouse.   They are going to need to bring in a consultant to conduct a study and find out if the two have any relationship to each other.


But Portland was the site of some comedy yesterday.  As I reported in this story last week, there is currently pending before the federal district court in Oregon a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of various members of the press and “legal observers” from groups like the ACLU, who complain that federal agents were “targeting” them with tear gas, pepper spray, and non-lethal impact munitions.  The suit alleges that such actions were deliberate and intended to interfere with their First Amendment rights to observe and report on the actions of the federal agents in responding to the rioters.

The case is assigned to District Court Judge Michael Simon — not the Food Network guy, I like him — but rather an appointee of Pres. Obama who has previously issued injunctions against some Trump Administration changes to federal immigration policy.  Last week Judge Simon entered a temporary restraining order in favor of the ACLU and members of the press, ordering that federal agents not target members of the press or legal observers who are documenting the actions taking place at the Courthouse.  The order reads pretty much like you would expect from a Judge who has absolutely no perspective on the level of chaos and violence that is taking place every night after he leaves the safety and seclusion of his chambers and goes home to his house somewhere in the Portland suburbs.

On Friday he conducted a telephonic conference with attorneys for the parties in response to filings made by both sides concerning compliance/non-compliance with his restraining order.  The ACLU claims the press is still being targeted by the federal agents, and the government is complaining that Antifa/BLM rioters are dressing up like they are members of the press — which was pretty predictable given that the Judge’s TRO had described what individuals needed to wear in order to bear the “indicia” of being a member of the press.  I covered that subject in this story about Antifa’s sudden huge press corps.


During the course of the telephonic hearing, Judge Simon stated that in his view the ACLU had made a significant showing that federal agents were violating the terms of his TRO and that members of the press were still being targeted.  But he recognized the problem of identifying the individual agents responsible and being able to hold them accountable for their actions.

So he suggested that he was seriously considering ordering the government to have the federal agents where “jerseys,” or some kind of gear garment where a unique numerical identifier would be easily visible in such a way that the identity of the individual agent could be ascertained later by using the numerical identifier.

Politico reported on the comments by Judge Simon as follows:

”I do think it might be appropriate to require any federal law enforcement officer who steps out of the federal courthouse building to wear a unique identifying code,” Simon said during a 90-minute teleconference with lawyers involved in the case. “I’m taking this very, very seriously.”

The judge said he was considering ordering that federal agents — including scores of officers the Trump administration dispatched to the city from across the country — wear numbers about 8 inches high that would make it easier to assess whether some officers are violating a temporary restraining order the court issued last week.

Simon said he was thinking of something like the jerseys professional sports players wear, minus the names, which he said would expose law enforcement officers to the threat of doxing by the public.


There are two parts to my reaction to this. First, what a moronic idea. The manner in which law enforcement tactical teams dress, and the equipment they make use of have an operational relationship to what they have been tasked to do. The federal government is ultimately responsible for the actions of each law enforcement agent on the street, so their individual identities are not relevant to the lawsuit — if the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs are being interfered with, they can seek redress for their grievances in the lawsuit. Why not just tell the government to make the agents wear clear helmets and visors made from a shatter-proof material so that their faces are clearly observable? Then surveillance cameras can record the actions of every individual agent, and Judge Simon can sit comfortably and safely in his chambers and review the video footage looking out for law enforcement agents whose conduct tramples on his so-well-thought-out TRO.

And that is my second reaction – this is a typical response from a liberal activist judge. He’s going to manage the way in which the executive branch conducts its law enforcement operations, and is going to use his “Orders” the threat of sanctions or contempt to compel compliance with them, based on his judgments as to what is “correct” and what is “incorrect” with regard to operational matters before the issues of legality and illegality are ever conclusively resolved by the parties in his courtroom.


I always had a quip I used in moments like this when discussing head-shaking rulings from federal judges — he’s just telling them “I’m the judge and you’re not”.

Maybe he should just order the two sides — if they go back to battling each other — to play “Shirts and Skins” to make it easier to keep track of which side everyone is on.


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