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"Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters." What you need to know about the persistent unrest in Portland.

It's day 59.

For every night since May 29, protestors in Portland, Oregon, have held demonstrations in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It's been two months since George Floyd's death sparked worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, and whilst they have since subsided in many cities, Portland hasn't stopped. In fact, the protests in Portland have recently intensified.

Here's everything you need to know about the persistent unrest in Portland, Oregon. 

What is happening in Portland?

Up until recently, mostly peaceful protests have swept the streets of Portland for about eight weeks, as residents demanded racial equality. The city is known for their brutal racist history and for being one of America's whitest cities, making the town a particularly poignant backdrop for the movement. 

By June, the protests had largely dwindled. Nightly marches continued, but were attracting fewer numbers. 

Nevertheless, federal forces were deployed in early July at the behest of President Donald Trump, who said damage to federal property, including the federal courthouse in Portland, left him with little choice. Their arrival was unwelcome - not just by protestors, but by local authorities as well. This outrage reinvigorated the rallies. 

A crowd of about a thousand people protest in Portland, Oregon. Image: Getty. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, of the Democrat Party, said the "dozens if not hundreds of federal troops" were "sharply escalating the situation". 

"Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism," he told CNN last week. 

Donald Trump, on the other hand, insists it is the right thing to do. 

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Speaking at the White House, Trump said, "Portland was totally out of control, and they went in, and I guess we have many people right now in jail and we very much quelled it, and if it starts again, we'll quell it again very easily. It's not hard to do, if you know what you're doing."

According to The New York Times, what started out as protests against racism have now morphed into more complex goals, including "defunding the police, addressing income inequality and pushing federal agents out of the city."

As the protests have escalated in the wake of the presence of federal police, some protestors have become increasingly violent, whilst others have remained peaceful.

Who are the federal police?

A number of videos widely circulated online have raised concern and questions about who exactly the 'federal police' are. The troops are dressed in camouflaged combat-style uniforms and have been seen arresting people on the streets, before puting them in unmarked vehicles. 

In fact, Senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi said they were "unidentified Stormtroopers" who were "kidnapping protesters".

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The armed forces are part of a new federal initiative and were formed last month thanks to an executive order by Trump, who tasked them with the responsibility of protecting historic monuments, statues, memorials and federal facitlities. 

Since they've arrived, the federal officers have employed the use of tear gas, which despite its widespread use is a banned substance per the 1993 International Chemical Weapons Convention. 

What happened to the Portland mayor?

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reacts after being exposed to tear gas fired by federal officers while attending a protest against police brutality and racial injustice on July 22. Image: Getty. 

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Last Wednesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler attended one of the protests. 

"The reason I am here today is to stand with you no matter what," Wheeler told the crowd of thousands. "If they launch the tear gas against you, they’re launching the tear gas against me."

Shortly after, Wheeler was tear gassed by federal police officers whilst in the middle of a crowd. 

"I’m not going to lie. It stings. It’s hard to breathe and I can tell you with 100 per cent honesty I saw nothing that provoked this response," Wheeler told Time magazine.

"This is flat-out urban warfare and it’s being brought on the people of this country by the President of the United States and it’s got to stop now," Wheeler said. "This is a threat to our democracy."

The US Justice Department said on Thursday it would investigate the use of force by federal agents in Portland.

Who is "Naked Athena"?

Photos and videos have gone viral online of a naked woman placing herself between the protestors and police, before peacefully and silently sitting down. 

The woman has still not been identified, but has been called 'Naked Athena' online. Witnesses are still unsure what her purpose was, but presumably she was in solidarity with the protestors and their movement.

She was reportedly shot at by police, despite showing no violent behaviour.

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Who are the "Wall of Mums"?

In recent days, groups of mothers have come together, arm in arm, and placed themselves between federal officers and younger protesters to protect them. They all wear yellow, and have been heard chanting: "Feds stay clear. Mums are here."

The mothers' Facebook group, that has nearly 20,000 people, says they are "dedicated to supporting the current civil rights movement to end police brutality by protecting and supporting BLM protesters on the front line and online."

Now, the stand off between the Portland people and the federal agents continues, with no imminent end in sight, as neither side seems close to stepping down.  

Feature Image: Getty. 


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