Federal police arrested eight protesters this morning who were peacefully blocking the driveway of Southwest Portland's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. The protesters, wearing medical masks to lessen the effects of peppy spray, stood linking arms on the street, effectively blocking a ICE van from exiting the driveway. In a video taken by a protester, at least four federal officers approach the line of demonstrators and began to pull people away from each other.
In a matter of seconds, all protesters are lying facedown on the sidewalk, pinned down by officers. Several other officers shoot pepper balls at
the ground protesters and point pepper spray canisters at witnesses.
Robert Sperling, a spokesperson for ICE, says the protesters were arrested for "impacting federal property." It doesn't matter that they weren't actually standing on federal property.
"They refused to move after several verbal warnings," Sperling says. "They were actually impacting federal property and city property by being on the street." He says the eight were likely arrested for obstruction and failure to comply with officer's orders.
Minutes after making the arrests, federal police blocked off Southwest Bancroft St. with police cars and yellow tape.
Sperling gives the same explanation for why a number of federal officers tried to enter the Occupy ICE PDX camp Monday, which sits on TriMet property. The feds were looking for two protesters who had removed yellow tape hanging between the camp and the ICE building, according to a KGW interview with Sperling. Judging by this case, it appears "federal property" has an incredibly broad definition.
Here's a lengthy video of this morning's clash:
The new arrests have put Occupy ICE protesters on edge.
"There's a lot of tension in the air," says Ariel Stone, a Portland rabbi with Congregation Shir Tikvah, who visited the camp this afternoon. "Things are getting more extreme. People are pretty freaked out."
She's heard a number of rumors throughout the camp of a looming crackdown from the feds—but it's hard to tell how much of it has merit.
There's at least one piece of good news, however. "The police are not in riot gear today," says Stone. "So that's nice."