As protests in Portland, Oregon, have continued, a viral video has captured a man identified as Mike Hastie, reportedly a Vietnam war veteran, being sprayed in the face by an unidentified federal agent in fatigues while yelling at a line of troops, as reported by the HuffPost. As the video from early Sunday morning, recorded and shared by journalist Andrew Kimmel, shows, it appears that Hastie was shouting at troops, but not being overtly threatening, before he was sprayed by a law enforcement officer who entered from off-camera. It’s unclear if the spray was pepper spray or something else. What isn’t unclear, however, is that growing concerns about unidentified federal agents at protests is an issue the mainstream media can’t ignore.
As far as the video, here’s what we do know. Veterans for Peace took to Twitter to clarify that Hastie was part of their organization. One photographer at the incident described Hastie as “incapacitated” for a period after the attack, and that he needed his eye flushed with water before he could walk again, as posted to Twitter. Hastie also identifies himself as a former combat medic.
We don’t know what was said or what occurred before the video begins. In the video, Hastie is already speaking. After less than half a minute, an officer holds the spray canister less than arm’s length from Hastie’s face before spraying him, then the troops appear to move along.
Here is that video.
As Daily Kos has covered, peaceful demonstrators have gathered in Portland since George Floyd was killed in May. Protests became violent, however, after federal agents embarked in the city. Some protesters have accused federal troops of detaining demonstrators without explaining why they’ve been arrested, as well as failing to identify themselves.
As my colleague Kerry Eleveld covered, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was himself teargassed by federal troops as he was interacting with protesters just last week. When speaking to reporters later, he said, "I saw nothing which provoked this response,” and added that this is not “a de-escalation strategy,” but rather “flat-out urban warfare.” As my colleague Lauren Floyd covered, a group of mothers went viral recently for forming a line to separate protesters from these federal troops. The women, now known as Wall of Moms, were shown on video being pushed back by federal agents using batons.
And if this whole story sounds eerily familiar, that’s probably because this isn’t even the first veteran to report facing violence during the Portland protests. Navy veteran Christopher David was shown being sprayed in the face and hit with a baton by federal agents in a recent viral video as well.
Outside of Portland, it’s difficult to read this story without remembering the 75-year-old man in Buffalo, New York, who was pushed to the ground by officers in riot gear when attempting to speak to them. That victim has finally been released from the hospital. After the video of the incident went viral, two officers involved are facing criminal charges.