N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
Published 9:58 a.m. ET July 21, 2020 | Updated 4:41 p.m. ET July 21, 2020
This U.S. Navy veteran was repeatedly beaten with batons and pepper-sprayed in the face by federal officers during a protest in Portland, Oregon.
A Navy veteran said he went to a protest in Portland to talk with the federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump. Instead, he was beaten and sprayed with pepper gas in a confrontation captured in a now-viral video.
Although protests in Portland have been going on for weeks, Christopher David, 53, told the Associated Press he decided to join the protest for the first time Saturday night because he was disturbed by reports of federal officers in unmarked cars arresting people without explanation.
“What they were doing was unconstitutional,” said David, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Navy veteran. ”Sometimes I worry that people take the oath of office or the oath to the Constitution, and it’s just a set of words that mean nothing. They really don’t feel in their heart the weight of those words.”
David said the federal officers came charging out of the federal building and plowed into a group of protesters. He said he stood his ground after one officer shoved him backward. Another officer pointed a semi-automatic weapon at his chest.
“They came out to fight,” David said.
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What happened when he tried to talk to the officers is captured in a video shot by Zane Sparling, a reporter with The Portland Tribune.
One officer hits David with a baton five times, blows that broke his ring finger and another bone in his hand. David doesn’t move or flinch. Then, another officer – wearing green military camouflage, a helmet and gas mask – sprays him in the face with what appears to be pepper gas.
David tries to shove the officer’s hand away, then finally turns around and walks away while raising his middle fingers. He is wearing a Navy sweatshirt and hat.
Video of the incident has more than 13 million views as of Tuesday morning. David said he will need reconstructive surgery on his finger.
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN that he was “familiar with the video” and that the officers were with the U.S. Marshals Service. Cuccinelli said DHS officers were in Portland because of threats to federal facilities but added that “maintaining an appropriate response is an ongoing obligation.”
DHS called some of the protesters “violent anarchists” in a statement about the protests in Portland. The agency said protesters had launched objects at federal officers, set fires and tried to barricade officers inside the federal building.
‘Secret police force’: Feds reportedly pull Portland protesters into unmarked vehicles, stirring outrage
Protests have occurred every night for nearly two months in Oregon’s largest city after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose neck was pinned by a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism, and peaceful protesters have been met with tear gas, flash-bangs, pepper spray, “less-lethal” impact weapons and other munitions.
David said he has become a symbol of the militarized response to the protests in Portland but wants to shift focus back to the goals of the protesters.
“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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