Homeland Security Flights Surveilled Portland Protests

As the Black Lives Matter protests were taking place nightly in Portland, Oregon, the Department of Homeland Security watched from cameras located around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. The presence of federal officers on the streets of Portland was controversial enough to begin with, but now comes the news that DHS was also watching from the skies as well.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the federal response to the unrest during testimony Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, saying officers and agents “were abandoned” as they were attacked nightly by “violent instigators” and blaming local and state officials for failing to help protect federal properties in the city.

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PORTLAND, OREGON, USA – JULY 21 : Federal officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators in Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2020. Over a thousand people, including a large march of mothers, demonstrated for racial justice and against Donald Trumpâs insertion of Federal officers in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Our law enforcement officers are not the Gestapo, storm troopers or thugs,” Wolf told senators.

The pictures clearly tell a different story, especially when paired with the news that DHS also surveilled the protests and demonstrators from the sky. Flight tracker data obtained by Portland free weekly Willamette Week shows that on at least three occasions airplanes owned by Homeland Security circled for hours over Portland protests—on the evenings of July 22, 28, and 29. Since July 16, DHS has restricted flights of all non-designated aircraft through August 16th within the airspace directly above Portland for “special security reasons.”

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