- According to personal accounts and videos posted online, federal law enforcement officers in Portland have been driving around in unmarked vehicles and detaining people on the street without explanation.
- The move comes amid days of escalating tensions between protesters and the federal agents deployed by President Trump to quell demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.
- State and local officials have continually asked the Trump administration to remove the feds, who they say have made the situation worse and more violent by clashing with the demonstrators and firing tear gas and munitions.
- However, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has said he will not remove his agents, and earlier this week, Trump praised their efforts, falsely claiming that many people had been jailed and that the protests had stopped.
Feds in Unmarked Vehicles
Unidentified federal law enforcement agents in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the street in Portland, Oregon since at least July 14, according to local reports.
Multiple videos posted online show the law enforcement officers driving up to people, detaining them without explanation, and then driving off, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OBP) reported Thursday.
Personal accounts given to the media also support the allegations. According to interviews conducted by OPB, the agents have detained people involved in the ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.
Some of the individuals detained were not near federal property, and it is unclear if the people being arrested committed any crimes.
Demonstrators Mark Pettibone and Conner O’Shea told reporters that they were walking home in the early hours of Wednesday when a group of people warned them that people in camouflage were driving around in unmarked cars and taking people off the street.
Minutes later, an unmarked minivan pulled up in front of them, and several armed people in camouflage and body armor got out.
“I was terrified,” Pettibone told The Washington Post. “It was like being preyed upon.”
Both men told reporters that they ran when they encountered the mysterious agents. O’Shea, who said he was pursued by a second unmarked van, filmed the dark scene.
“Feds are driving around, grabbing people off the streets,” O’Shea said in the video, given by OPB, which verified that the metadata confirmed the time and place of the protesters’ story. “I didn’t do anything fucking wrong. I’m recording this. I had to let somebody know that this is what happens.”
Pettibone, however, was unable to escape the feds.
“I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone said to OPB. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”
He said the agents, who never identified themselves, drove him to a federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell. Eventually, two officers went to the cell and read him his Miranda rights. They asked if he would waive his rights and answer some questions, but he declined and asked for a lawyer.
The officers responded by ending the interview and releasing Pettibone, who said that they would not tell him why he had been arrested or provide him with any record of his arrest.
While both he and O’Shea said they regularly attend protests, neither could think of anything they had done that would make them targets of law enforcement.
The two men told OPD they believed the feds went after them simply because they were near a protest and wearing black.
The new allegations come amid escalating tensions brought by the presence of federal officers from the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security, which were deployed to the streets of Portland by President Donald Trump in response to the weeks of ongoing protests in the city.
The agents, who are supposed to protect federal property, have continually clashed violently with protesters. They have frequently deployed tear gas, even though a recent law prohibits the Portland police from using the chemical unless there is a clear safety risk.
On Saturday, Marshals Service officers shot a peaceful protester in the face with so-called “less-than-lethal” munitions. Photos and videos of the incident circulated online showed the man in the street bleeding from his head. According to reports, he was hospitalized with a skull fracture.
State and local leaders have repeatedly called on federal authorities and the Trump administration to remove the agents, whose presence they never requested in the first place. Those calls have grown with the recent escalations.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, has called the federal response “irresponsible” and demanded that the feds stay inside federal buildings or leave the city. Separately, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese has said that the federal response is a “significant setback” in the efforts to ease tensions.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) also accused the agents of making the situation worse, saying in a tweet on Thursday that the “shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence.”
Clashes With the Trump Administration
Others have also accused President Trump of deploying the federal officers for his own political gain.
“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a tweet on Thursday. “The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”
Brown also took aim at acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
“He is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes,” she wrote. “He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”
Those remarks were also echoed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who referred to the feds as “Donald Trump’s secret police” in a tweet Thursday.
“Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media,” he added.
However, both Trump and Wolf have made it clear that they plan to ignore the officials’ calls.
During an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Wolf said that he was well aware that local and state leaders wanted federal authorities to “pack up and go home,” but added, “that’s just not gonna happen on my watch.”
President Trump, for his part, praised the federal efforts during a press conference Monday.
“We’ve done a great job in Portland,” Trump said. “I guess, we have many people right now in jail, and we very much quelled it. And if it starts again, we’ll quell it again very easily. It’s not hard to do if you know what you’re doing.”
According to reports, only about a dozen people have been arrested, and the protests have continued throughout the week with violent confrontations between protesters and federal law enforcement.
See what others are saying: (Oregon Public Broadcasting) (The Washington Post) (The New York Times)
College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War
As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.
College Board Rolls Out Curriculum
The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.
The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.
In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.”
Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.
Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.
According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.
Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”
It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism.
The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”
DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War
DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.
Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”
Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.”
To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.
Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too.
Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May
The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.
Emergency Declarations at an End
In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.
The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.
Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.
Lapses in Coverage and Care
Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.
One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.
Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.
Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.
Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid.
Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.
Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.
“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”
When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.
The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.
There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.
Other Possible Outcomes
Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.
Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.
Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut.
As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates
The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.
Same War, New Battlefield
Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.
Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.
Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.
Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources.
Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.
According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.
Xbox Under Fire
To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture.
While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.
“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.
“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,” Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.
Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”
The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.” That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want
Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).
“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.
The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.
“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.