portland blm rioters police tear gas
© Reuters / Terray Sylvester
Police disperse protesters rallying against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Portland, Oregon, June 13, 2020
The US Customs and Border Protection agency has taken credit for a Portland protester's hot-button arrest this week, saying the man was a criminal suspect, while refuting claims he was 'kidnapped' by agents wearing no insignia.

The CBP sought to address the incident in a statement on Friday, noting that the protester arrested one day prior was suspected of vandalism and attacks on agents amid anti-police brutality demonstrations, which it said were organized by "violent anarchists."

"CBP agents had information indicating the person... was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property," the agency said, adding that "once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob moved toward their location."


Though the organization said its agents identified themselves and wore CBP insignia, it noted that "the names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law enforcement personnel" - countering claims that their uniforms were entirely unmarked, with no identifying patches.

Footage of the encounter has circulated on social media. In the video, the agents declined to provide their names when asked by other activists, however, it showed that their uniforms did indeed feature "police" patches and other markers. The brief clip does not appear to depict the "large and violent mob" alleged by the CBP, with only a handful of activists seen in the area. The man who was detained is shown in the footage with his hands up as agents move in for the arrest, telling them "I haven't done anything wrong."


The incident follows other reports of unmarked federal agents snatching protesters off the streets of Portland as anti-police brutality demonstrations rage on around the country. The arrests have kicked off a firestorm of controversy, with critics castigating the moves as lawless and authoritarian.

Responding to the reports, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) labeled the federal officers "stormtroopers" - likely a reference to the Nazis' secret police force, which rounded up opponents of the Third Reich - and claimed that officers in Portland would swoop down on protesters "in response to graffiti."


A former senior intelligence officer with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - which oversees the CBP - however, said, as cited by the Nation, that DHS officers are not required to use identifies or marked vehicles. "Such operations happen all the time," he said.

In line with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in late June mandating the protection of historical monuments - a frequent target of anti-racism activists in recent weeks - the DHS was authorized to create a special task force to deal with vandals and civil unrest. The CBP agents in Portland are working under that authority, an agency spokesman told the Nation.