Mike Balsamo, reporter for the Associated Press, knows that the violence erupting in Portland, Oregon, is not a myth, despite Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler’s assertion otherwise.
Nadler on Sunday told a journalist that despite relevant reporting and videos, the violence in Portland is a nothing more than a “myth” circulating in Washington, D.C.
What are the details?
Balsamo recently spent an evening at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland. Balsamo, who barricaded himself inside with federal law enforcement while 4,000 unruly demonstrators proceeded to attack the building as well as locations across the city, said that it was clear the area had turned into a war zone.
In a widely shared report, Balsamo shared his experience inside the fortified building.
“In the no-mans-land outside stood the fence: A thick, black iron installation, erected six days before, a dividing line between protester and protector, a stark separation between two radically different world views,” Balsamo reported.
It was clear that the area was a heavy focus of rioting.
“The terrace outside the front door was littered with garbage, the steps leading to the courthouse splattered with paint,” he wrote. “A mixture of anti-police and Black Lives Matter graffiti covered the building’s outer walls and columns to a height of about 10 feet.”
Balsamo said that tear gas from protests the night before “still hung in the air” and “coated the floor with a slime that had been hurriedly mopped up by custodians earlier that day.”
Then he made a terrifying point: Rioters seem to have dehumanized law enforcement officials and people with opposite values to the point of considering them nothing more than lifeless pawns or “thoughtless political minions.”
One unnamed deputy U.S. marshal told Balsamo that he is shaken every time he has to leave the building.
“You open those doors out, when the crowd is shaking the fence, and … on the other side of that fence are people that want to kill you because of the job we chose to do and what we represent,” he said. “I can’t walk outside without being in fear for my life. I am worried for my life, every time I walk outside of the building.”
Another agent told Balsamo that the country has no idea about what’s actually happening in Portland.
“You see a lot of commentary on social media about, ‘Well, they’re wearing protective gear so that it’s not going to hurt them.’ Okay, I’ll put the same protective gear on you and I’ll throw a brick at your head and you tell me if you feel comfortable with that,” a senior U.S. Marshals Service official said.
“They can put out 10 seconds of something (on social media) that unfolded over several minutes, and those are the 10 seconds that look bad for us, whereas the rest of it would look bad for everybody,” he added. “They use what serves their narrative.”
Agent left with ‘bloody gashes’ and ‘deadened’ hearing
As night crept in, the situation at the courthouse became more and more desperate.
“Thirty minutes later, someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence,” Balsamo recalled. “Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes, and rubber bouncy balls that cause the agents to slip and fall.”
Heavy cans of Black Turtle beans appear to be a crowd favorite, but standby water bottles still suffice.
Conditions only deteriorated from there, Balsamo noted, as agents were forced to deploy tear gas to disperse and confuse. Protesters began to fire metal ball bearings with slingshots, and agents began firing pepper balls through window slits.
“No one talked much over the whir of the industrial fans set up to blow the tear gas back outside,” Balsamo wrote. “The men who weren’t on the front line sat with helmets in their laps but left their gas masks on so they could breathe, the air still thick with chemical irritants.”
More and more fireworks shook the building’s walls as the rioters cheered.
An agent was struck by a firework, leaving him burned and bloodied.
“It exploded with a boom, leaving his hearing deadened and bloody gashes on both forearms,” Balsamo writes. “Stunned, with help from his cohorts, he stripped to his boxer shorts and a black T-shirt so his wounds could be examined and photographed for evidence.”
The night was long, but federal reinforcements showed up and were able to push rioters away from the building.
One deputy U.S. marshal issued eerie remarks to Balsalmo: “I look out on the street and it looks like downtown Baghdad.”