A failure of local leadership in Portland, Oregon, threatens to spread to other major U.S. cities if it is not stopped in the Rose City. The federal government must go on the offense against the rioters in Portland, bringing charges against those assaulting federal buildings, law enforcement, and citizens.
The months-long rioting in Portland began when Mayor Ted Wheeler refused to deal with initial nightly attacks on government buildings and private businesses, surrendering the initiative to the radical leftist groups like Antifa, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and a mob of rioters — who, after sunset each night, decide what is destroyed and who is attacked.
The nightly cycle of violence and lawlessness went on for over forty days before President Trump deployed federal law enforcement officers to defend the federal courthouse in downtown Portland and other federal installations in the city.
Trump did not have to act; Portland is a deep-blue city with few Trump supporters, and it is a perfect example of failing Democrat-run cities. Instead, Trump viewed Portland as a president should — as a U.S. city in chaos failing to provide basic law and order to American citizens.
Antifa, BLM, and the mobs attacking the federal buildings, local businesses, and police precincts have no coherent demand. They want to bring down the U.S. system as we know it. Their demands have gone from police reform to defunding the police to abolishing the police to abolishing ICE to ending the U.S. government altogether.
While their agenda remains intentionally murky, what is clear is their violent intent, and each night Antifa and BLM agitators have led coordinated assaults on the federal buildings and local businesses — with little intervention by Wheeler. In essence, Antifa and BLM have succeeded in abolishing the police in downtown Portland when the sun goes down. Why would they stop there? Their goal is full control.
This rioting is separate from peaceful protests that arose after the murder of George Floyd. Many citizens of Portland felt compelled to add their voices to the national outrage and wanted police reform. But their enthusiasm was quickly exploited by Antifa.
Antifa has deep roots in Portland going back to the late 2000s and has been given a wide berth by local leaders to shut down streets, riot, and attack those they deem fascists or racists. Portland’s branch of Antifa, known as Rose City Antifa, gained national notoriety in 2018 when they and other left-wing groups took over the ICE building in downtown Portland after Wheeler ordered the Portland Police to stand down and not provide aid to the federal law enforcement officers.
This incident emboldened Antifa and allowed their use of criminal tactics such as assault, breaking and entering, and intimidation to rule the streets. Predictably Antifa used their newfound strength to stage many violent attacks on locals by occupying the streets and redirecting traffic. The mayor’s refusal to enforce basic law and order made Portland a destination spot for many far-left and far-right groups to stage demonstrations that often turned into brawls between the two sides on the streets.
Antifa has a powerful control of the narrative by calling themselves anti-fascists and labeling anyone who opposes them a racist. Following the election of Trump, Antifa immediately labeled him a fascist to justify their attacks on federal buildings, journalists such as Andy Ngo, and anyone who did not submit to their will whenever they chose to show their presence and shut down public spaces and streets.
Despite their criminal methods, many citizens of Portland feel compelled to support Antifa. Many were infuriated by the 2016 election of President Trump and see Antifa as a counter to Trump. Even reluctant residents tolerate their tactics to prove they are not “racists” or “fascists.”
But the line must be held at the federal buildings. Americans cannot let the forces seeking to destroy our system win.
There are few good options. DHS’s defense of federal buildings alone will not stop the nightly carnage and may even lead to a lethal confrontation that could embolden Antifa’s narrative and strengthen its movement. But removing federal law enforcement would be a submission to Antifa, BLM, and the mob’s demands.
The federal government must go on the offense and bring federal charges. Without serious repercussions, there is no reason for Antifa, BLM, and the mob to stop their assault and could embolden other Antifa agitators in other cities.
The U.S. government should prosecute and expose all destructive actors seeking to destroy our system under the guise of fighting racism. Their insatiable thirst for control and power must be put front and center.
To my fellow Americans, for whom I fought for on the battlefields in the Middle East and Africa: Having law and order on our streets and maintaining the American system that values our democratic republic and the rights of the individual is not a partisan issue.
Rejecting those seeking to tear down our systems does not determine who you vote for this fall or what party you support, it just means you value our way of life.
This nation is something very special and worth fighting for; it is time to reject those seeking to destroy what so many have fought to defend and build.
Joe Kent is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Three. Joe spent over twenty years in Special Operations and completed eleven combat deployments. Joe is also a Gold Star husband; his wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed in 2019, conducting Special Operations against ISIS in Syria. He is also an advisory board member for Veterans and Military Families for Trump.