“How is this going to save my life?” Damany Iqwe said to a group of people who had started a fire in the street alongside the park across from Portland Justice Center. “How is lighting fires and spraying graffiti going to save a Black man’s life?”
Over the past 62 days, Protesters have gathered outside Portland, Oregon’s Justice Center where inside, police and federal agents wait. For the most part, throughout the daylight hours until midnight, it is a peaceful protest with little intervention by the police or federal agents that have been dispatched by the president of the USA, Donald Trump, to “Restore law and order.” We have seen Union members, groups of organized Mothers and Fathers make appearances to rebuke the presence of Federal Agent presence in their city. We have heard moving speeches delivered by Black men and women- even teenagers, discussing their frightening encounters with law enforcement throughout their lifetimes, detailing the impact that brutality and injustice has had on their family, their employment opportunities and their safety in public spaces.
However, as the hours slip away and the crowds of actual protesters dwindle, there is a small collective that remains behind. These are mostly young, white individuals armed with cameras to capture the events they’re desperately trying to manifest. They’re heavily clothed in bullet-proof vests and helmets with the word “Press” applied in painter’s tape.
There is nothing peaceful about the Protest after midnight in Portland. In fact, this is when agitators take to the front lines of the movement, scream obscenities at the building, throw makeshift molotov cocktails over the chain link fences erected to separate them from the Federal building and use power tools such as chainsaws and other devices to mutilate the blockade.
In the moments leading up to the chaos, there are no inspiring speakers sharing their stories behind megaphones; No unified chanting of the names of those fallen victim to police brutality. No one is carrying placards with powerful messaging anymore. These late night stragglers are not there for the movement or to propel the important principals upon which Black Lives Matter was founded. They are, instead, weaponizing its critics by perpetuating the narrative that all of these protesters are violent, anti-American criminals thriving on the conflict. Fox News, which covers the ongoing protests more than any other network now, has used the footage of after-midnight agitators to create a smear campaign that deliberately misrepresents the entire organization, defining it by these people and their actions.
Here are screenshots of Fox News and CNN captured at the same time. Fox News gives the late night activity large sums of airtime- CNN doesn’t even mention the peaceful efforts.
At midnight- sometimes later, the Police announce via speaker that the crowd has been declared “A riot” and issues a request to disperse. They announce this multiple time before appearing from inside their building and taking formation around the blockades. As the lingering anarchists scream inflammatory words at them- even highly offensive slurs like “F*ggots” and referring to them as “Women”- they are shot with exploding fireworks, spit at and pummeled with random objects.
“Protesters” deliberately breech the barrier, sometimes climbing up on the surrounding lamp posts and bellowing expletives at police while onlookers cheer.
These “Protesters” deliberately provoke the agents into action, using the aggressive tactics to capture salacious photo-ops and videos that, without context, appear traumatizing and solicit tremendous sympathy from those tuning in to their late night broadcast feeds.
These after hours antagonists have been branded by most of the legitimate protesters as a liability. They are the ones commanding most of the international visibility as they point their cameras at conflicts they intentionally provoke while broadcasting it to a global audience. Many of these streamers have leveraged the protests to personally enrich themselves. Advertising various means of donating and supporting their presence at these events; one protester held up his phone to display his cashapp account which boasted over 11,000 USD in donations from just two days of attendance.
He was white.
In fact, most of the late night streamers are- except for one. Sol Luna is a black streamer who has been vocal about disavowing the protester violence and destruction of public property, a statement that has caused him backlash from others who claim his outspoken stance against hostile anarchists is somehow traitorous. Sol does not participate in or record the violence perpetuated by late night drifters who use the event like a sordid street festival. They get drunk and high on camera, people in the park leave used condoms on the street and they use the bathroom on the lawns and in the bushes. They blare music throughout the neighborhood from loud speakers and in some instances, dance- utterly detached from the events around them- just feet away from armed federal officers.
It is quite probably that the large sums of money donated by the combined hundreds of thousands of nightly viewers across multiple platforms is not being funneled to efforts to support Black Lives Matter. For example, one streamer boasted on camera that he had purchased a more expensive camera, a 3,000 dollar mobile wifi unit and riot gear, and military grade gas mask as well as various pieces of heavy armor to withstand close proximity to the action for “The best shots…”
In fact, the money being thrown at those using the early morning hours as a COPS-like reality show that conservative love to hold up as representative of Black Lives Matter, has created a new form of random white people self identifying as “citizen Journalists.” Some people even travel from other states like California in a morbid form of crisis tourism to live stream for the weekend and make a quick buck by recording- and simultaneously shaming, the antics they document for throngs of viewers who believe that this form of protest is happening around the clock. It has sabotaged the movement of Black Lives Matter and the message actual protesters are attempting to send to state and federal leaders.
The images of Federal Agents attacking civilian protesters are not fake. People have been beaten, sprayed in the face at close range with pepper spray while unarmed and peaceful. Protesters have been assaulted with batons, pelted with rubber bullets, burned by flash grenades. They have lost eyes, broken bones, suffered severe respiratory issues and been unconstitutionally taken into custody.
However, the most attention is given to the antics that unfold in the middle of the night- where the arrests are warranted; Where destruction and vandalism is rampant and violence is intentionally agitated for the sole entertainment of live viewers who spread it like wildfire- and hand detractors a stick to beat real protesters with. The real atrocities and stripping of constitutional rights taking place before our eyes each day are drowned out by the loud, raucous white agitators who think they’re in a movie or playing a video game. They engage the police in an episodic game of cat an mouse for the purpose of self victimizing rather than spotlighting the real victims of police brutality- Black men and women. These people are undermining the value of our cause.
Late night live streamers and newly founded news networks borne from the conflict have not contributed to the progress — or the awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. They’ve lent to a toxic, inaccurate narrative that allows white extremists to leverage this conflict resulting in the vilifying of Black Americans.
Instead, white people have hijacked it for money, the thrill of combat and even the celebrity status some of them have now been afforded. Pulling focus from the vital messaging from Black Lives Matter is causing irreparable damage and resulting in leaders writing it off as a gang of angry, unhinged social justice warriors rather than Black Americans who are fighting for the right to live.