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Portland Protests: Why have they become so violent?3 min read

Protests in Portland started as peaceful protests for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd. As time has gone on, the tension between protesters and law enforcement have only encouraged more violence. 

Following George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota protests around the world had begun promoting the Black Lives Matter Movement and the issue of police brutality. The Portland protests continued for nearly two months. They keep shedding a light on the racism that continuously exists in our society on all levels; such as healthcare, racial profiling, and how police officers behave when interacting with the black community.  

As the protests continued, President Trump decided that he needed to send federal law enforcement officers into the city to calm the situation. The BBC stated: “Mr Trump deployed the personnel to the west coast city two weeks ago to quell civil unrest. Local officials say the federal officers are making matters worse and have called for them to leave. State leaders have also demanded that Mr Trump remove the personnel from Portland, accusing him of escalating the situation as a political stunt in an election year.” 

Many of the federal enforcement officers were in unmarked vehicles and wore military-style camouflage. According to the BBC, these officers are from a new part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), deployed by an executive order signed by President Trump. The order allows them to be deployed without any say from the individual states. 

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“While protests during the daylight hours have been overwhelmingly peaceful; marked by marches, unity gatherings, and even the singing of songs…clashes at night between some protesters and federal officers have resulted in the repeated vandalism of the US courthouse in downtown Portland and the tear-gassing of demonstrators.” 

Much of the media has chosen to portray the protests in a way that makes them look overwhelmingly negative. By focusing on clashes at night and the repeated vandalism in Portland and in other BLM protests the protests seem anything but positive. The president has also been more harshly targeting states that overwhelmingly vote Democratic. With the upcoming 2020 election in November, the president wants to show that he is ‘tough on crime’ and grow the support that he already has.

These protests that started as a peaceful movement to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement have been especially pivotal during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the United States Covid-19 has disproportionately affected the African American population nationwide. The vast majority live in areas with lower quality healthcare and have been over-policed compared to their White counterparts.

With the rise in technology, Millennials and Gen Z are able to easily spread the news about protests, petitions and further educate ourselves about how we can do better going forward for a more equal society. Still, we need to remember we have a long way to go. Like Will Smith said: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s being filmed.

Caroline Kelly

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