Hours After Biden Inauguration, Federal Agents Use Tear Gas in Portland
Protesters in the Pacific Northwest smashed windows at a Democratic Party headquarters, marched through the streets and burned an American flag on Wednesday in a strident challenge by antifascist and racial-justice protesters to the new administration of President Biden, whose promised reforms, they declared, “won’t save us.”
In Portland, Ore., lines of federal agents in camouflage — now working under the Biden administration — blanketed streets with tear gas and unleashed volleys of welt-inducing pepper balls as they confronted a crowd that gathered outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building near downtown. Some in the crowd later burned a Biden-for-President flag in the street.
Another tense protest in Seattle saw dozens of people push their way through the streets, with some breaking windows, spray-painting anarchist insignia and chanting not only about ICE, but the many other issues that roiled America’s streets last year under the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.
“No Cops, Prisons, Borders, Presidents,” said one banner, while another proclaimed that the conflict over racial justice, policing, immigration and corporate influence in the country was “not over” merely because a new president had been inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
“A Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people,” said a flier handed out during the demonstrations, during which protesters also smashed windows at a shop often described as the original Starbucks in downtown Seattle. The communiqués used expletives to condemn Mr. Biden and “his stupid” crime bill, passed in 1994 and blamed for mass incarcerations in the years since.
Hours after the inauguration of Mr. Biden, federal agents in Portland used tear gas and other crowd-control munitions to disperse demonstrators who had gathered to protest the harsh arrest and detention practices wielded by federal immigration authorities under the Trump administration.
Mr. Biden has signaled that immigration is going to be a key issue of his presidency, using some of his first executive orders on Wednesday to end construction of the border wall and bolster the program that provides deportation protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
The conflict in Portland capped a day of demonstrations in the liberal city, where different groups of protesters either decried Mr. Biden or called for activism to pressure the new president to take forceful action on immigration, climate change, health care, racial justice and income inequality.
Earlier in the day, a group of about 200 people — a mix of racial justice, antifascist and anarchist activists — marched to the local Democratic Party headquarters, where some of them smashed windows and tipped over garbage containers, lighting the contents of one on fire. “We don’t want Biden — we want revenge,” said one sign, referring to killings committed by police officers.
In a city that has seen months of demonstrations over racial injustice, economic inequality, federal law enforcement and corporate power — and some of the harshest law enforcement responses to such protests — protesters have vowed to continue their actions no matter who is president. “We are ungovernable,” one sign in the crowd said.
In Seattle, about 150 people marched through the streets. Some spray-painted buildings with an anarchist symbol and broke windows, including at a federal courthouse. They chanted both anti-Trump and anti-Biden slogans.
One member of the group handed out fliers to people on the street that said, “Biden won! And so did corporate elites!” The fliers explained that a “Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people” and that “Biden will not save us.”