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Portland Protests Grow as Trump Administration Vows to Maintain Presence of Federal Officers

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  • Protests in Portland have been renewed since the Trump administration deployed federal agents to the city to crack down on the ongoing demonstrations against racism and injustice.
  • Since being sent to the city, the federal officers have clashed with protestors violently, deploying tear gas and less-than-lethal munitions, and driving around in unmarked cars detaining people.
  • The deployment has been highly criticized by state and local leaders, who have repeatedly asked for them to be withdrawn. Administration officials have refused to remove the agents, arguing that their presence is necessary.
  • In response, the protestors have begun demonstrating against the federal agents, and over the weekend, Portland saw some of the largest protests in weeks.
  • Over the weekend, the federal agents responded forcefully to the new protests. In one now-viral video, a group made a “wall of mothers” to create a human shield between the protesters and law enforcement before they were tear-gassed by the feds.
  • Protestors have also engaged in violence as well, setting a police union building on fire Saturday and throwing projectiles at the officers.

Protests Escalate

Violence erupted again at protests in Portland, Oregon throughout the weekend amid heightened scrutiny over the decision by the Donald Trump administration to deploy federal law enforcement agents to the city.

Demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality have been ongoing in the city since the death of George Floyd in late May, though they began to dwindle after a few weeks.

However, those movements recently regained momentum after the Trump administration sent agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals Service to the city at the beginning of July to crack down on protesters.

The move came as part of an executive order signed by President Trump at the end of June to protect federal statues and direct DHS to create a new task force.

Since their deployment, the federal agents have continually and violently clashed with the protestors. They repeatedly fired munitions at protestors and deployed tear gas, despite a ruling from a federal judge prohibiting Portland police from doing the same unless they declare a riot. 

Last week, the situation caught the eye of the national media when Oregon Public Broadcasting (OBP), reported that unidentified federal law enforcement agents in unmarked vehicles had been grabbing protesters off the street since at least July 14.

The report, which was supported by multiple videos and personal accounts, was later confirmed Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who told NPR on Thursday that that federal agent had used unmarked vehicles to pick up people in Portland in order to keep officers safe and to move detainees to a “safe location for questioning.”

That information renewed criticism from state and local leaders, who have repeatedly demanded that the administration withdraw the federal agents. However, top DHS officials have doubled-down, continually refusing to remove the feds and scapegoating the local leaders.

In a highly charged press release issued Thursday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf claimed that it is the local leaders, not the feds, that are making the situation worse. He also defended their presence in the city, arguing that some protestors have been destroying a federal court house, which is federal property.

“A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America” he said. “Instead of addressing violent criminals in their communities, local and state leaders are instead focusing on placing blame on law enforcement and requesting fewer officers in their community. This failed response has only emboldened the violent mob as it escalates violence day after day.”

This siege can end if state and local officials decide to take appropriate action instead of refusing to enforce the law. DHS will not abdicate its solemn duty to protect federal facilities and those within them,” he continued, before going on to describe the “lawless destruction and violence” that has happened over the last six weeks in a list where he uses the phrase “violent anarchists” 72 times.

Cuccinelli also made similar remarks to NPR on Thursday.

“I fully expect that as long as people continue to be violent and to destroy property that we will attempt to identify those folks,” he said. “We will pick them up in front of the courthouse. If we spot them elsewhere, we will pick them up elsewhere.”

“That’s standard law enforcement procedure, and it’s going to continue as long as the violence continues.”

Videos Go Viral From Protests

While the Trump administration has firmly said it will ignore the demands of local leaders and keep the feds in Portland, the protests have now grown and evolved in response to those agents staying in the city.

According to reports, upwards of 1,000 people showed up to demonstrations this weekend—marking the largest crowd the city has seen in weeks— and producing several now-viral videos.

In one instance, a group made “a wall of mothers” forming a human shield between the protesters and law enforcement officials. They then stood their ground for a few hours, until the feds began using tear gas and flash bangs to break up the crowd.

In another notable moment, a Navy vet named Chris David called out a group of federal officers, reportedly after they rushed a line of protesters and knocked them to the ground. 

“Why are you not honoring your oath? Why are you not honoring your oath to the Constitution?” David asks, walking up to the officers, who proceeded to beat him with a baton and sprayed chemical irritants into his face. According to reports, his hand was broken in two spots. 

Notably, there were also some instances of protesters becoming violent. On Saturday, Portland police declared a riot after the police union building was broken into and lit on fire. Protestors also tore down fencing around the federal courthouse.

President Trump, for his part, has repeatedly praised the federal law enforcement officers in Portland and indicated that he would like to increase their presence in other U.S. cities.

On Sunday, Trump defended the decision to utilize the agents in a tweet.

“We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” he wrote. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (USA Today)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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