PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal law enforcement officers used tear gas and crowd-control munitions on people protesting near Portland’s federal courthouse during a protest that started Saturday night, Portland police said.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that friends and family of a demonstrator say a 26-year-old man was struck in the head and injured by an impact munition fired by authorities.
Desiree LaBella, the mother of Donavan LaBella, said he suffered facial and skull fractures. He came out of surgery early Sunday morning and was responding to doctors.
“He was awake enough to give the OK to talk to me,” she told OPB. “He’s had some facial reconstruction surgery. They’re just watching him right now.”
Video posted to social media showed the man apparently being struck in the head after holding a speaker aloft.
Federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse asked for help from city police at about 2 a.m. Sunday after protesters resisted arrest and threw bottles, the Portland Police Bureau said. Announcements were made for protesters to leave the area, and the crowd dispersed around 3:20 a.m., police said.
Fires were started in trash cans and dumpsters, but no buildings were threatened, police said. One person was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully pointing a laser.
In a statement, Gov. Kate Brown called for federal officials to scale back their response to the protests, which have roiled Oregon’s largest city for six weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The events of last night at the federal courthouse were the tragic and avoidable result of President Donald Trump, for weeks, continuing to push for force and violence in response to protests,” Brown said.
Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty criticized the federal officers.
“This reckless and aggressive behavior has now put someone in the hospital,” Hardesty said. “This protester is still fighting for their life and I want to be clear: this should never have happened. If this continues a life will be taken and it won’t matter whether a federal officer or Portland Police officer did it -– it won’t bring that person back.”
Last week Portland’s Deputy Police Chief, Chris Davis, said an “agitator corps” of violent protesters are responsible for vandalism and chaos in the city. Davis made a distinction between Black Lives Matter protesters, whom he said were not violent, and a smaller group of people he repeatedly called “agitators.”
On Friday, one person was taken into custody after hitting a federal officer in the head and shoulder with a hammer during a protest at the nearby Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. No details were released about the officer’s injuries. Several other people accused of pointing lasers into the eyes of federal officers were also taken into custody.
Federal officers also used tear gas during that protest.
The Department of Homeland Security has deployed officers in tactical gear from around the country, and from more than a half-dozen federal law enforcement agencies and departments, to Portland as part of a surge aimed at what a senior official said were people taking advantage of demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd to engage in violence and vandalism.