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VIOLENCE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

  • An Associated Press reporter observed six U.S. Marshal agents become wounded at the hands of violent demonstrators in Portland during his time embedded in a courthouse under siege.  
  • An estimated 4,000 people converged on Portland’s Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse over the weekend and hurled concrete blocks and fireworks at agents, among other objects. 
  • Some officers inside the federal building are in fear for their lives, as demonstrators continue to bombard the area. The AP reporter called the experience “eye-opening.” 

An Associated Press (AP) reporter watched several U.S. Marshal agents sustain wounds as thousands sparred with police during the journalist’s stay at a federal courthouse over the weekend.

An estimated 4,000 people converged on Portland’s Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, and demonstrators made their presence known by hurling concrete and launching fireworks from behind the massive fence that stood between them and federal agents, according to an AP report.

AP reporter Mike Balsamo was inside the building during the siege and watched a total of six agents sustain injuries, including one who was bloodied after taking a direct hit from a firework, he reported.

“We wanted to show you a look inside the protests from both perspectives — out in the crowd with protesters and inside the courthouse with federal officers,” Balsamo wrote on Twitter Monday. “It was a really eye-opening experience to see it firsthand. I was inside the courthouse & @gflaccus was outside the fence.”

Protests often began peacefully, but frequently devolved into violence when demonstrators made a nightly march to the federal courthouse, according to Balsamo. Officers defending the area continued to fear for their lives.

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“It’s scary. You open those doors out, when the crowd is shaking the fence, and … on the other side of that fence are people that want to kill you because of the job we chose to do and what we represent,”  a Deputy U.S. Marshal, who requested anonymity because protesters reportedly posted his personal information online, told AP.

“I can’t walk outside without being in fear for my life,” he continued. “I am worried for my life, every time I walk outside of the building.”

One U.S. Marshal referred to the scene as akin to “downtown Baghdad” according to Balsamo.

Protesters routinely used high-powered laser beams against agents inside the courthouse, according to AP. A total of three officers in the last few weeks have yet to recover their vision after such devices were pointed at their eyes, Balsamo reported in a Tweet.

Agents seized shields, concrete blocks, slingshots and blocks of wood, among other things after each night of rioting, according to Balsamo.

President Donald Trump deployed federal agents to Portland earlier this month as the city continued to be roiled by weeks-long violence that followed the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.

The agents who were deployed  drew controversy after videos emerged of authorities detaining protesters and hauling them away in unmarked cars, according to The Guardian.

Rioters in Portland say the move by the president was not necessary and their message is “positive,” despite continued clashes in the Oregon city.

“We are not here being violent or being destructive. We have a positive message — there is nothing to quell here,” protester Monica Arce told AP, referencing Trump’s statement that the agents were there to quell unrest. “The people of Portland are saying, ‘We don’t want this presence here and we don’t think we need them at all.’”

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