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On Portland’s Streets, Chaotic Scenes Continue Tradition of Protest

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PORTLAND, Ore. — With a ski helmet and goggles on her head, Allison Hyder said she had told her family members that she planned to stand at the rear of protests in downtown Portland. But, in the early hours of Tuesday, the grandmother of five found herself right up front, locking arms with other mothers dressed in yellow.

Standing with a pack of other protesters, she chanted in front of the boarded-up entrance to the federal courthouse. Even as some in the crowd began prying at the wood affixed to the courthouse, leaving Ms. Hyder uneasy about where things were headed, she remained resolute.

“I am the face of anarchy,” Ms. Hyder said. “The people of the U.S. need to know that moms, grandmas and nurses are out here in the middle of the night demanding rights for everybody.”

The demonstrations that have shuddered through Portland for 54 consecutive days have drawn out a complicated mix of emotions and grievances, and an array of people who are expressing them.

In a state with a deep history of racial-exclusion laws and spirited protest tradition, the Portland protests have persisted even as Black Lives Matter demonstrations have waned in parts of the country.

But some leaders in the Black community, grateful for a reckoning on race, worry that what should be a moment for racial justice could be squandered by violence. Businesses supportive of reforms have been left demoralized by the mayhem the protests have brought. The city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, despised by many of the protesters, has now been fighting to have federal officers leave them alone.

Amid the Gordian knot of grievances and escalations, most everyone seems to agree about one thing: The combative deployment of camouflaged federal agents has only made things worse.

President Trump, in launching a law-and-order message for his re-election campaign, has embraced a dark portrayal of Portland as a lawless place filled with people who “hate our country.” His administration’s crackdown has brought armed officers from a wide variety of federal agencies to the streets of Portland, where they have been firing tear gas and pulling protesters into unmarked vans.

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The moms, wearing yellow, joined in the protests in Portland, Ore., during another night of unrest.CreditCredit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

The president’s portrayal and the crackdown he has unleashed have infuriated protesters, who see Mr. Trump as trying to use the city’s unrest as political theater during an election year, forcing a federal presence on a city that doesn’t want it.

It is not the first time that Portland has gotten under a president’s skin. The city’s tradition of protest — which included bonfire lighting and egg throwing whenever former President George H.W. Bush came to town in the early 1990s, once prompted an aide to refer to the city as Little Beirut.

Protesters, some of whom identify with the loosely organized group known as antifa, see the unusual deployment of federal power as compelling evidence that their fears about rising fascism in the United States are justified.

On the streets, the scenes can resemble mayhem.

On Tuesday morning, police said another jewelry store had been looted. As federal agents appeared to try detaining one person, others in the crowd rushed to free the person.

Follow our reporter Mike Baker on Twitter to see what happened in downtown Portland overnight.

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