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Federal agents pepper spray Vietnam War veteran and photographer during Portland protest

A Vietnam War veteran was pepper sprayed in the eye by federal agents as he railed against American atrocities during a protest early Sunday morning in Portland, Oregon.

A photographer was filmed by journalist Andrew Kimmel as he was confronting a group of heavily armed Department of Homeland Security agents outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland before dawn on Sunday.

Mike Hastie, who served as an Army medic in Vietnam, screamed at the agents who stood lined up a few feet away when a federal officer suddenly approached him and doused his face with what appears to be a chemical irritant.

Hastie appeared briefly shaken as he removed his glasses and rubbed his face.

He then continued to scream at the agents, saying: ‘We committed atrocities every single day in Vietnam. I stood next to a ditch in Vietnam and we murdered 170 Vietnamese people.’

‘And you guys don’t know that!’

After the agents left, Hastie was seen struggling to recover. He told witnesses that he was sprayed in the eye.

A few people nearby offered to assist him.

Last weekend, video went viral showing federal agents use a baton to beat a Navy veteran, 53-year-old Chris David.

David, 53, said he was drawn to the protest on the night of July 18 after seeing horrifying footage of federal officers driving around the Oregon city in unmarked cars, snatching demonstrators off the streets and spraying them with tear gas.  

As a former service member himself, he said he wanted to talk plainly with the agents about why they were so blatantly violating their oath to protect and serve.  

But when he approached a group of the agents outside Portland’s federal courthouse, he said one officer beat him with a baton, breaking his hand in two places, while another sprayed him with chemicals.  

‘I wanted to ask them: “Why are you guys not following the Constitution?”‘ David told Reuters. 

‘But we never got there. They whaled on me like a punching bag.’

The incident from early Sunday morning took place on the 59th night of protests in Portland, which turned out to be one of the most destructive yet as protesters tore down the fencing surrounding the downtown federal courthouse.

Federal police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray at the angry crowd which was estimated to be about 5,000 strong.

Protesters starting their nightly civil unrest earlier than the previous nights. 

By 10.30pm federal police started spraying the crowd with canned aerosol pepper spray. When that didn’t stop the protesters, the federal agents fired thousands of rounds of rubber bullets.

The night started off in the usual manner. At around 9pm, a group of protesters would normally listen to speakers from the BLM movement. 

After about an hour the protesters moved next door to the federal building and several hundred of them began shaking the fence.

After several minutes federal police appeared and started their usual pattern of firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into the crowd.

But this time protesters didn’t retreat. They shook the fence with such forced it finally collapsed around 1am on Sunday. 

Protesters huddled together with their homemade shields to protect them from getting hit by the federal police munitions.

Simultaneously protesters on the corner of the courthouse were using a portable metal cutter to cut through the fencing as well.

As they were cutting through the fence federal police were firing canisters of tear gas from the upper floors of the federal building down at the protesters.

People with leaf blowers would quickly run to the canister and blow the tear gas back toward the federal police.

Others used their umbrellas to shield the people cutting the fence.

Portland police said they made several arrests during what was officially declared as a riot, though it did not specify an exact number. 

Police described via Twitter the ‘violent conduct of people downtown’ as creating a ‘grave risk of public alarm.’

Police demanded people leave the area surrounding the courthouse at around 1:20am on Sunday, and said that those who fail to adhere may be arrested or subject to tear gas and impact weapons.

By 1:40am, both federal officers and Portland police could be seen on the streets, surrounding the courthouse, attempting to clear the area and deploying teargas.

Protesters remained in the streets past 2:30am, forming lines across intersections and holding makeshift shields, as police patrolled and closed blocks abutting the area. 

In the hours leading up to the riot declaration, thousands of people gathered in the city Saturday evening for another night of protests as demonstrations over George Floyd’s killing and the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump showed no signs of abating.

Crowds began to march toward the city’s federal courthouse around 9:15pm, some marching from 5 miles away. 

A large group of demonstrators in the North Portland neighborhood also paraded by the police precinct there, which was roped off and had officers in riot gear standing outside the building.

Protesters paused outside a downtown hotel, where federal agents are staying, chanting ‘Feds go home’ and yelling the names of black people killed by police.

As protesters marched down the streets, the Portland Police Bureau posted on social media for people to not walk or block the street as they may be subject to charges such as disorderly conduct and interfering with peace officers.

Hundreds of others crossed the Steel Bridge around 11pm to the courthouse, meeting up with thousands of people that had already been tear-gassed by federal agents.

The fence surrounding the building had flowers and banners draped across as federal agents emerged from the courthouse to inspect it. 

They were met with fireworks shot over the fence.

Federal agents tossed canisters of teargas at the crowd, while people ran towards the plumes, picked up some of the canisters and threw them back over the fence.

As some protesters attempted to cut the fence using power tools, streams of pepper spray were spewed at the crowd.

At the nearby Justice Center, images and words were projected onto the building including ‘Keep fighting. Keep pushing.’

During demonstrations the previous night federal agents repeatedly fired tear gas to break up rowdy protests that continued into the early morning Saturday. 

Authorities say six federal officers were injured and one person was arrested.

Demonstrations have happened in Oregon’s largest city nightly for two months since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May. 

Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.

There were demonstrations for police reform and against the increased presence of federal law enforcement in cities across the country Saturday. 

In Seattle, police declared a riot Saturday afternoon following large demonstrations and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear crowds. 

Authorities made more than 40 arrests said 21 officers suffered mostly minor injuries.

Chuck Lovell, the Portland police chief, released a video message on social media Saturday night calling for peace.

‘Across the country people are committing violence, supposedly in support of Portland,’ Lovell said. 

‘If you want to support Portland then stop the violence, work for peace. Portland police officers and police facilities have been threatened.

‘Now more than ever, Portland police need your support. We want to be with you in the community and working on the real relationships that will create change. 

‘We want to get back to the critical issues that have been hijacked by people committing crimes under the cover of the crowds.’

Late Friday, a federal judge denied a request by Oregon´s attorney general to restrict the actions of federal police.

The Federal Protective Service had declared the gathering in Portland that began Friday evening an unlawful assembly. 

Harry Fones, a Homeland Security spokesman, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon some people launched large fireworks, threw hard projectiles and used power tools to damage property.

Craig Gabriel, Assistant US Attorney for the District of Oregon, said at the news conference that of the six federal officers who were injured, one suffered a concussion and another was taken to the hospital for burns.

He said one person was arrested for failing to comply with orders. 

That person was later released without charges, bringing the total number of people arrested on or near the courthouse property since early July to 60.

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