Working people in Portland and elsewhere welcome the announcement that the administration of Donald Trump is withdrawing its use of federal cops — including a Border Patrol SWAT team that is trained to act like special forces — around the U.S. courthouse and other government buildings in Portland. When the federal government deploys heavily armed cops on city streets, it’s almost never good for the working class.
That doesn’t mean working people support the provocative and disruptive actions by antifa and other “anti-fascist” forces, which gave the government a pretext for bringing in the special forces-like units in the first place. These groups undermine and weaken the fight against police violence.
Not that the local cops act much differently than the federal ones. Portland’s cops have also indiscriminately fired tear gas at protesters and brutalized those who got in their way. On July 30 they drove protesters from camps they had set up in downtown city parks.
Oregon state troopers have replaced the federal cops “protecting” federal buildings.
For participants in the various protest actions in Portland over the last several months, it’s been no secret that there are two separate and competing actions in the city every night.
The editors of the New York Times — whose policy is to blame Trump for everything they think is wrong in hopes of driving him from office — and other liberal and middle-class radical media lie about what is going on in Portland. A good example is the July 29 Times piece by senior columnist Nicholas Kristof, entitled “Help Me Find Trump’s ‘Anarchists’ in Portland.” He tries to cover up for the disruption and destruction by antifa and similar groups at the federal building.
‘Two different things’
These media insist on calling all those on the streets just “protesters.” But the antifa aren’t “protesters.” They describe themselves openly as combatants. “Violence is coming: may as well have fun while we wait,” one wrote on their website, “It’s Going Down,” describing how they set fires and initiated other mayhem. They denounce those who just “protest,” and seek to entrap them in the melee.
This has nothing to do with building a movement that can take on police brutality and win prosecution of the cops who killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and many others.
Articles in the Oregonian and by Reuters reveal the real story. They show how there are two distinctly different things going on every night. “A peaceful demonstration against racial injustice and police brutality begins at nightfall at the central police precinct,” Reuters reported July 31. “Protesters chant: ‘George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Black Lives Matter.’”
“As midnight looms,” a small band goes into action, “trying to attack the courthouse throwing fireworks and objects at police and agents over a fence guarding the building,” Reuters reporter Deborah Bloom writes.
Then she quotes from 22-year-old Black male nurse Najee Gow, who got active after Minneapolis cops killed George Floyd. “There are two different protests. This is beautiful,” Gow tells Bloom, pointing to the main body of demonstrators at the police precinct. “This is destruction,” he said, nodding to those waiting to confront federal agents outside the courthouse.
“If you really want to respect Black lives, and if you really want to respect Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, then you’d be listening to the movement instead of antagonizing police,” Gow said.
A few days earlier, the Oregonian reported how Gow had gone to the antifa gathering at the federal building to urge them to stand down and join the broader, peaceful movement.
Some anonymous antifa supporters responded by posting hostile comments. “Guy & his crew are trying to defang and co-opt for their own personal gain,” wrote one identified only as Buffalo Soldier. “Don’t let these asshats co-opt and turn this into a meaningless instagram worthy Pepsi ad performance show to launch their brand influencer careers.”
“F–k peaceful we’ve tried that it doent [sic] work send a message they will never forget,” posted someone called Hamelech.
“The protesters aren’t all peaceful, nor are they primarily violent,” writes Kristof, despite these facts. “They’re a complicated weave.”
But it’s not complicated. Neither antifa and self-proclaimed anarchist groupings, nor liberal apologists like Kristof are looking to build a movement that can force the capitalist rulers to rein in the police. They are not looking to broaden the fight against police brutality by organizing protests designed to reach out and involve the trade unions, churches and other organizations of working people.
But broadening out the fight is the only road to a more powerful, united working-class movement that can win more victories.