Over the weekend, a black man who said he served eight years in the Marines and tried to decorate a fence around the federal courthouse in Portland with American flags confronted protesters, snapping at them, “None of you guys represent black lives.”
“If you stand for justice come here and stand with me,” Gabriel Johnson, who opposes the use of federal law enforcement in the city, yelled at protesters while holding an American flag. “Stand with me because I’m here for justice. I’m not here to tear down this f***ing fence; I’m not here to spray-paint. It’s going on every day. If you don’t want to get gassed, stop! If you don’t want to get gassed, stop! It has to stop! None of you guys represent black lives. Sit and protest. Sit and protest.”
The moment was caught on video and posted to social media (warning: language).
— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) July 19, 2020
On Friday night, federal law enforcement used tear gas to disperse the crowd, prompting the protesters to respond with fireworks.
In response, Johnson told KOIN, “I spent eight years in the Marine Corps … I have tremendous PTSD. So 85 flash bangs and tear gas in my apartment is very triggering, and part of that trigger is the one way to stop it is to be about change.”
Concerning his attempt to decorate the fence with flags, Johnson said, “We deserve better. We deserve to be brought together.”
“My narrative is simply we all need to come together. Man, that’s it. You’re mad at me because I got a flag?” he told a protester.
“I support the city; I support the police; I support us coming together because it’s about time,” Johnson told KOIN. “It’s been 60-plus days of us being out in the street and like, what’s been accomplished?”
On Sunday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler complained on CNN about the presence of federal law enforcement in the city, saying they “are not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”
“Well, the president has a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect. What’s happening here is, we have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city,” said Wheeler, as reported by the Daily Mail. “And what they’re doing is, they are sharply escalating the situation. Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave. What we’re seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government, by a Trump administration that’s falling in the polls. And this is a direct threat to our democracy.”
On Sunday, President Trump tweeted, “We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it. 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!”
We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2020