Cruz, R-Texas, retweeted a graphic video that purports to show Antifa and Black Live Matter activists attacking a boarded-up federal courthouse in Portland overnight Friday.
“This is not Fallujah. This is not Beirut. This is America,” Cruz tweeted. “And Dem politicians are facilitating & cheering them on.”
Protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been a nightly feature in deeply liberal Portland since the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd while in police custody on May 25. President Trump has decried the disorder and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf blasted the protesters as “lawless anarchists” in a visit to the city, helping make the clashes between police and demonstrators a national focus.
The administration has enlisted federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property. But Oregon Public Broadcasting reported this week that some agents had been driving around in unmarked vans and snatching protesters from streets not near federal property, without identifying themselves.
Tensions also escalated after an officer with the Marshals Service fired a less-lethal round at a protester’s head on July 11, critically injuring him.
The agents’ actions have prompted outrage from elected officials and civil liberties groups, with Mayor Ted Wheeler demanding at a news conference Friday: “Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city.”
Democrat Gov. Kate Brown said Trump is looking for a confrontation in the hope of winning political points elsewhere and distracting from his widely panned response to the coronavirus pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump had deployed “stormtroopers” to the city and called for an end to the Department of Homeland Security’s mission.
But Cruz hit back at Pelosi’s critique.
“Cops are not stormtroopers. Arrests are not kidnappings. ANTIFA terrorists are not protestors,” he tweeted Saturday. “Dems are making the cynical political decision to stand with violent criminals trying to destroy America.”
Meanwhile, the clashes continue.
Militarized federal agents deployed by Trump to Portland fired tear gas against protesters again overnight as the city’s mayor demanded that the agents be removed and as the state’s attorney general vowed to seek a restraining order against them.
Federal agents, some wearing camouflage and some wearing dark Homeland Security uniforms, used tear gas at least twice to break up crowds late Friday night, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also sued Homeland Security and the Marshals Service in federal court Friday night. The complaint alleges that unidentified federal agents have grabbed people off Portland’s streets “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.