An Open Letter to Those Outside Portland

July 23, 2020

Hello friends and family,

You may be wondering if things in Portland are as bad as you have heard on the news. Well, yes and no. If you aren’t downtown, things are business as usual for the pandemic, with a little added tension and some weird planes and helicopters going overhead. (More on that later.)

If you are downtown at night, it is worse than you think. Protests for Black lives and against police brutality have been taking place in front of the county courthouse (and federal courthouse next door) for over 50 days. On July 3, Trump sent the feds (Department of Homeland Security) to Portland in order to “quell” the protests.

It’s not just young punks that are out protesting. There’s the Wall of Moms, who link arms and sing lullabies, and Dad Pod, who bring leaf blowers to deflect tear gas. Local elected officials are joining in.

The feds are extremely violent. They beat a Navy veteran who did nothing worse than stand too close to them and ask them why they were breaking their oath to the United States. One of the moms says she was sexually assaulted during arrest. Two protesters (that we know of) have received significant head injuries, at least one of which appears to be from the feds deliberate targeting his head. The feds have also been destroying street medics first aid supplies including hand sanitizer and PPE, which is just great during a pandemic.

There have been unusual planes flying overhead. For many days they stuck over the protests, but last night they began circling Portland widely. I saw them go past my house over and over. At least one of them is believed to be using Stingray technology. Stingrays mimic cell phone towers and suck up identifying information about you and those around you. I’m worried that they might be surveilling the entire city regardless of who is doing what.

There are mysterious unmarked cars grabbing people at night. A group of DHS officers in camouflage snatched a person, pulled his beanie over his head, and took him to a federal building. I have seen the “murder vans,” as we’re calling them. They don’t even have license plates.

Last night our mayor got tear gassed by the feds. A lot of us don’t like the mayor, myself included, but I’m glad he’s finally getting a taste of his own medicine. The Portland Police Bureau has been using tear gas on protesters for years and the mayor is police commissioner. Tear gas was recently banned in Oregon, unless it’s a riot, but the police call any kind of property damage a riot (including an officer slapping a phone out of a protestor’s hand so hard that it broke their own window). 

Additionally, the Portland Police Association (the local police union) seems to be going rogue. The mayor was never asked to meet with DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, and PPB never officially met with him, but the PPA certainly did and welcomed him! Our city council has barred the PPB from working with the feds, but we suspect they still are. One of my friends was pushed to the ground for filming Portland Police in his neighborhood. They told him that he’d better not be collecting intelligence for “insurgents.” This isn’t a war and protesters aren’t enemy combatants.

The feds will soon be heading to other cities including ChicagoDetroit, New York, Baltimore, Oakland, Philadelphia, and (strangely) Albuquerque.  I want everyone to know what to expect. I love you all and will keep myself safe.


Lauren Hudgins