PORTLAND (Reuters) – As a U.S. Navy veteran, Chris David said he thought he would be able to talk plainly with federal agents in Portland and ask them why they were using unmarked cars to snatch people off the street during recent protests in the Oregon city.
Demonstrators return to protest against racial inequality in front of federal buildings despite lingering tear gas fired by federal law enforcement officials in Portland, Oregon, U.S., July 19, 2020. Picture taken July 19, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
When he tried to speak with them outside the federal courthouse in Portland on Saturday night, he said a federal officer beat him with a baton, breaking his hand in two places. A second officer sprayed him with chemical irritant, David said.
“I wanted to ask them ‘Why are you guys not following the Constitution?’ But we never got there,” David said in an interview. “They whaled on me like a punching bag.”
A video appearing to show David being beaten by a federal officer and sprayed with a chemical by another while he stood passively went viral this weekend with 10.7 million views.
Afterward David, 53, was praised on social media for allegedly standing up to federal officers accused of excessive force and escalating violence as they protect federal buildings.
Top Homeland Security officials said on Monday they had no intention of pulling back in Portland and defended the federal crackdown on anti-racism protests, including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told CNN the officers involved in the incident were from the U.S. Federal Marshals Service.
Cuccinelli said he had seen the video but had not heard the audio or seen reports from officers involved in the event. He did not comment further.
Portland Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident.
Demonstrations began in Portland in May against police brutality and racial injustice triggered by the killing of African American George Floyd.
Reporting by Deborah Bloom in Portland; Editing by Dan Grebler