Two blocks west and one block south, the several dozen federal law enforcement agents guarding the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse could hear the protesters coming.
Under orders to protect the courthouse — federal property that has been increasingly targeted as the city’s protests against racial injustice march on — the agents were accustomed to the drill. But tonight, the crowd was huge, estimated at 4,000 people at its peak and the largest they had seen.
A top commander with the U.S. Marshals Service peered out a window facing the Willamette River and watched the sea of humanity sweep toward him. It was going to be another long night.
In the no-mans-land outside stood the fence: A thick, black iron installation, erected six days before, a dividing line between protester and protector, a stark separation between two radically different world views.
To the protesters, the men inside the battened down courthouse are at best thoughtless political minions, at worst murderous henchmen. To the agents inside, the demonstrators that pack the downtown each night are violent anarchists, an angry sea of humanity bent on hurting — or even killing — federal agents doing their job.
“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,” said a Deputy U.S. Marshal who has been protecting the courthouse for weeks. He requested anonymity because protesters have identified him and posted his personal information online.
“I can’t walk outside without being in fear for my life,” he said. “I am worried for my life, every time I walk outside of the building.”
Is this the beginning of the United States transforming into a military state, where federal agents flood the streets and overrule local authorities? Or is it a battle to keep the violence in Portland from becoming the new America, a frightening vision painted by President Donald Trump of what the future will hold without his leadership?
“I finally get outside at 7 a.m., after being in the building since 3 p.m. the day prior, and I look east and I’m like, ’Oh, the world’s normal over there and people are driving to work and the city is clean and functioning,” said the Deputy U.S. Marshal. “And I look out on the street and it looks like downtown Baghdad.”
The battle over, the agents and the demonstrators gathered their things and headed to bed, protesters and protectors sleeping in the same city — perhaps even on the same street — resting up for the next night’s fight.
For at nightfall, it would all begin again.
Law enforcement agents/protesters
A clean and functioning city/downtown Baghdad
I went to the AP site after finding this story on SF Gate, titled “Portland’s streets: Anger and fear on both sides of the fence”. The LA Times has Protests reignite across U.S. as standoffs in Portland continue between protesters and federal agents as well as Seven hurt, four arrested in scuffle between police and protesters in downtown L.A. The AP, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, are all dedicated to presenting both sides of the story. You can rely upon them to give you the facts, whether you watch Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson.