Awareness, Assessment, Avoidance, Action: Analysis of a Riot (Part 2)

Awareness, Assessment, Avoidance, Action: Analysis of a Riot (Part 2)

Through all the unrest, Old Glory continued to wave above the Federal Courthouse. Flags getting burned and desecrated on the ground were ok with me as long as we still had one flying proudly. Photo Credit: iStock/Daniel Augustine.

It’s been interesting to see some of the responses and reactions to the first part of this article. I would like to emphasize that what I shared with you is simply what I observed. The intent was to share both sides of the observed story, being objective, but some still got aggravated with the last report. While I am a veteran, and my allegiance firmly sits with Law Enforcement Professionals, I went to Portland to be objective and even critique the Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs) used by LE there. What I came away with was a better understanding of the peaceful protests, increased empathy for the LE Professionals, a longing for the return of the rule of law and complete condemnation of the violent riots.

This entry will really apply the Awareness, Assessment, Avoidance, and Action format with some additional Analysis to the events in Portland. This entry will include a subjective analysis of the protest, the riot, LE TTP’s, and recommendations for readers how to deal with a mob bent on violence.

Awareness. The protests up until early nightfall were nearly completely non-violent. I say nearly, because there was a lot of drug use, intoxication and likely other ingredients that often lead to violence. What was mostly observable was a well organized protest with people practicing their constitutional rights. The crowd was less than 1% black and less than 2% people of color, but the leaders and organizers of the protest appeared to be African American. When the protests turned to violence, the leaders and organizers appeared to be almost all white.

Assessment. While the grievances are complex, people organizing, gathering, and making their voice heard in peaceful protest is something I put my life on the line to defend.

Action. Every night, like clockwork, the protest devolved into a violent riot.

Analysis. Either the leaders and organizers of the peaceful protest do not have enough influence to control their followers, or they are complicit in turning the protests into violence.

The evidence observed leans toward the latter. The tone and discussion during daylight hours was much more reasonable and controlled. As night came, those same speakers began to change their tone and content and it became clear that their intent was to whip the crowd into a frenzy and then hand them to the leaders of the next phase- Antifa.

Awareness. The way the organizers leveraged the media was impressive. The ceremony of the “Moms” taking their position and the exaggerated coverage of the children there was well orchestrated. As the tone of the crowd began to shift toward increased anger and confrontation, the Federal LE officers opened a wide door that was in the middle of the Hatfield Courthouse.

Assessment. There were definite plans on both sides on how the rioters intended to escalate the violence and the Federal agents planned to react to the violence and attempt to de-escalate the situation.

Action. When this door opened, the crowd zeroed in on it like a moth to a light and they began to throw rocks, frozen water bottles and shoot fireworks into the open doorway.

Analysis. We stood at the back of the crowd and I wondered why the Federal agents even opened the door. It simply seemed to ignite the crowd. We took another step back and I looked around. There were Federal buildings surrounding the courthouse that were completely unprotected. What was stopping the crowd from attacking and destroying the other buildings?


I had to applaud the subtle tactics the Federal agents were using. When the crowd was turning into a riot, they presented a target for them to fixate on. With a minimum force of officers, they were protecting multiple buildings simply by creating a target for the enraged masses. Very clever.

Awareness. As the rioters became more emboldened, they began to shoot fireworks into the building and threw flammables, combustibles, and incendiary devices over the fence with the intent to burn down the courthouse. As this progressed, they tried to cut down the protective fence and in other places tear it down.

Assessment. The graduated levels of escalating the violence was well planned and resourced.

Action. Federal LE exited the building and extinguished the fires and would then return to the interior of the courthouse. They would eventually have to push the rioters back to ensure they would not breach the protective fence and unleash a wave of chaos and destruction that would be very difficult to de-escalate.

Analysis. Before I saw the events unfold, I wondered why the Federal agents would ever even leave the building and the protective fence. Ultimately, they had no choice. They had to put out the fires. They were tasked to protect the Federal courthouse. I’ve heard some people say that it is just stuff, that we should abandon facilities like the courthouse and just pick up the pieces afterward. While I can see some of the logic on that sentiment, it also assumes that the violent crowd would be satisfied with just burning down one building. It also begs the question of what about all the documents and computers in the courthouse that were critical to past, present, and future criminal cases? Would you like to find out that all the evidence in the murder case of your loved one was lost in a fire because the authorities decided to surrender their responsibility to a mob?

Awareness. As the rioters began to break more laws, they were completely aware of their unlawfulness and began to threaten and intimidate anyone that they thought was not wholly with them. As discussed in Part 1, they worked to dox people that were trying to quell the violence and extremely confrontational with anyone that was not foreign press. Multiple international humanitarian organizations were there handing out phone numbers to write on your arm in case you were arrested. They were very open about their reason for being there – they were there to document any use of force by law enforcement. When asked about their observation duties for the excessive use of force by the rioters, they said that was not their interest.

Assessment. In addition to the rioters on the front lines, they had support sitting somewhere doing the research on the people that were being photographed. The international aid workers/observers were very insistent that they were there as volunteers. I suspect someone was paying them and the foreign press was certainly there to broadcast the strife in America for others to exploit.

Avoidance. Prior to the violence, people were willing to speak with us. They shared their grievances. As the violence escalated, rioters began to surround us, intimidate us, pull down our COVID masks, harass us and make threats. As the confrontations became more frequent and more threatening, we left the riots to return to the hotel. A few young men followed us back toward our hotel trying to instigate some sort of confrontation, but they did not resort to physical force. Once apart from the crowd, we made sure that the two of us were able to physically support each other and we kept the harassers in front of us and at further than arm’s length away.

Analysis. As the night wore on, young men and women simply bent on violence, vandalism, and “something to do” during the COVID quarantines remained. The more hardened criminals also remained.

Our analysis was that the protestors would stop short of physical violence and would back down if we offered no threat in return. This was largely true for us, but as discussed in Part 1, Andrew Duncomb (Black rebel) was stabbed. From the videos that are circulating, it looks as if Black Rebel got very close to a rioter, even putting his arm around him, and that cost him dearly. While I admit we likely underestimated the penchant for violence within the mob, including stabbing someone, we followed an important rule self-defense – control the distance.

Below is an excerpt from the riots that night and another report from more recently.

Portland Riots Read Out – DHS

Bottom line: The violent situation in Portland for the past 56 straight days continues with violent anarchists rioting on the streets as federal law enforcement officers work diligently and honorably to enforce federal law; they do so by defending federal property and the lives of their fellow officers.

In response to nightly attempts to raze and damage the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, DHS made the decision earlier this week to put up a stronger fence around the building’s perimeter. While more secure fencing has kept much of the criminal violence away from the courthouse building, it has now become a consistent target of the rioters, who try to tear it down and breach it using ropes, saws, and power tools. Rioters have also tried to set the fence on fire. As federal officers left the building to respond to attacks on the fence, night after night they have been met by rioters with hard projectiles, mortar style fireworks and lasers that can cause permanent blindness.

The Past 24 Hours: Demonstrators started to gather around 8 p.m. local time on July 24th and reached around 1,000 by 9 p.m. By 10 p.m. crowd size was estimated to be somewhere around 3,000 to 4,000 people.

10:15 PM

A rioter was arrested for trespassing after climbing over the fence protecting the Hatfield Federal Courthouse perimeter.

10:45 PM

Rioters began to aggressively rock the fence back and forth in an effort to topple it.

10:58 PM

The first mortar-style firework of the evening was fired at the courthouse. The rioters continued to attack on the fence, forcing federal officers to issue multiple warnings to cease. Rioters responded to the warnings by throwing a flare into the fence’s perimeter. Rioters then started to use saws to take down the fence, while others disabled several security cameras by shooting them with paintball guns.

11:18 PM

Federal officers were forced to leave the courthouse building in response to rioters’ attacks on the property. As they did, they were once again attacked with lasers, as has been the case previous nights. Around this time, rioters began to attack the fence with power tools. Around this time, reports indicated that other groups of rioters were starting fires in the vicinity of the courthouse.

11:32 PM

Rioters began to drive a car toward the fence protecting the courthouse as large mortar fireworks were fired at the building. In response, federal officers were forced to leave the building in order to repel the rioters. While officers stood at the fence, rioters attempted to set it on fire.

11:49 PM

The first Molotov cocktails of the evening were thrown at the courthouse. Minutes later, rioters continued their efforts to saw through the fence, this time at the courthouse’s loading dock.

12:15 AM

Federal officers began to sustain multiple injuries, one requiring medical attention after taking a direct hit from a commercial grade firework.

12:33 AM

Another federal officer was hit with a mortar firework. Around this time, officers were also assaulted with objects filled with unknown liquids being hurled over the fence.

12:45 AM

The crowd size was approximately 2,000 individuals. At 12:50 federal officers declared an unlawful assembly and warned the crowd to cease the violence and disperse. Rioters responded with more laser attacks, renewed efforts to set the fence on fire, and assaulting officers with projectiles. Minutes later, one officer was struck with a frozen water bottle.

1:31 AM

Rioters attached rope to the fence and attempted to pull down the fences, as they have tried every night since it was erected.

2:15 AM

Rioters fed a fire previously lit in the courthouse vicinity with wood and accelerants.

Shortly thereafter, following 3 hours of sustained assault by violent anarchists, federal officers were forced to go outside of the fence perimeter to repel the crowd. During this effort, a federal officer was struck in the head with a mortar firework.

2:40 AM

The Portland Police declared an unlawful assembly.

2:58 AM

Reports indicate that rioters had set traps to puncture tires at the vehicle egresses at the Edith Green Federal Building.

There were at least 6 injuries to federal officers reported through the course of the night’s violence. There were no reports of injuries to rioters or protestors.

DHS officers conducted 1 arrest during the night’s violence.

Portland Riots Read-out: August 5, 2020

Bottom line: The vicinity of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse continues on its current trend of receding violence. Tuesday evening marked a third consecutive night with no attacks directed at federal officers or property – a stark contrast from the violent nightly siege of the previous weeks. This drastic, but welcome, change is directly attributable to the long awaited cooperation from state and local law enforcement, which assisted with clearing the parks where rioters daily staged their nightly siege.

Currently, local and state law enforcement address violence on the streets while working alongside the surged federal presence to protect and defend federal property behind the fence.

Rioting continues elsewhere in Portland. While violence around the courthouse has receded, the city’s rioters have refocused their attacks on local law enforcement. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) was forced to declare yet another riot overnight following an assault on the Portland Police Association building.

The past 24 hours: Crowd size around the federal courthouse peaked at approximately 50 individuals, which remained peaceful through the course of the night. There were no reported injuries to DHS officers or damage to federal property. DHS officers conducted zero arrests. Oregon State Police (OSP) partners did not engage the crowd outside the fence.

Just before midnight local time, multiple rioters attempted to break into and burn down the Portland Police Association building – located roughly four miles north of the federal courthouse. Around the same time, local law enforcement officers were attacked with hard projectiles. PPB declared an unlawful assembly.

After 1:00 a.m. local time, rioters breached the doors to the building and started a fire inside, according to PPB reports. PPB then declared a riot as its officers worked to disperse the crowd and conducted several subsequent arrests.

Final Analysis: Rioters are never satisfied. Anarchists just want to see everything burn. From what I observed, I do not feel that the rioters were there because Federal Agents were there. Federal agents were there because the credible threat existed that they had to respond to.

It’s like a bug light. The bug light doesn’t create bugs, it is the point of their focus.

As stated above in the DHS report, the downturn in violence is directly attributable to the longawaited cooperation from state and local law enforcement.

I also suspect that as the days went on, Federal Authorities were able to arrest enough of the organizers, leaders, and instigators of the riots to reach a critical mass where the baseline level of violence is now at a point where local LE can deal with it.

Peace needs to be more contagious than violence.

If violence edges out peace, you need to be able to protect yourself and your loved ones.


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