Reporter inside Portland courthouse posts viral Twitter feed on dangers faced by federal agents

One U.S. marshal told Associated Press reporter Mike Balsamo that he's worried for his life 'every time I walk outside that building'

Updated: July 29, 2020 - 6:15pm

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An Associated Press reporter has posted a first-person, day-in-the-life account of federal agents working at the U.S. courthouse in Portland, Oregon, under siege from violent demonstrations that have left agents burned or injured by projectiles and fearing for their life. 

The account was posted by AP reporter Mike Balsamo in a viral Twitter thread that he weaved during his time as an embedded reporter at the Mike O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which has for weeks been under attack by nighttime rioters, using the otherwise peaceful anti-police protests to attempt to shutter or damage the building.

"Mortars were being fired off repeatedly, fireworks & flares shot into the lobby, frozen bottles, concrete, cans & bouncy balls regularly whizzed over the fence at high speeds," tweeted Balsamo, who also co-bylined a story with fellow AP reporter Gillian Flaccus, who reported from outside of the courthouse. 

"I watched as injured officers were hauled inside,” Balsamo later tweeted. “In one case, the commercial firework came over so fast the officer didn’t have time to respond. It burned through his sleeves & he had bloody gashes on both forearms. Another had a concussion from being hit in the head w/ a mortar." 

The Trump administration sent the federal agents to Portland after city police failed to secure the courthouse. President Trump’s move has sparked widespread controversy, with one side saying the agents’ presence has created a police state, while supporters say federal property – and moreover cities across the country – cannot be ceded to agitators. 

"The officers outside the Portland courthouse have been hit by an array of objects from canned food to ball bearings fired from slingshots," Balsamo, a Justice Department reporter for the wire service, also tweeted. "On Saturday night, a DHS officer was soaked completely in orange paint thrown from one of many paint cans later seized by authorities."

The story he co-wrote also chronicles the duress agents feel. 

“I can’t walk outside without being in fear for my life,” a deputy U.S. marshal is quoted as saying. “I am worried for my life, every time I walk outside of the building.”

Balsamo has been praised for his eyewitness account including a shoutout tweet from a Justice Department spokeswoman who wrote: "AP’s @MikeBalsamo1 spent the weekend inside the courthouse that has been under attack. Read his thread to see what he observed. (And, thank you to Mike and AP for being a news org willing to cover the full picture of what’s actually happening in #Portland.)"

A Twitter subscriber with the handle @Muffycook1 wrote, “Is this the USA? Looks like a war zone. Send in the National Guard, tanks, copters with those daylight spots and whatever it takes to keep our protectors safe. Settle this mess down."

However, he’s also faced criticism for the report, which critics have suggested is a pro-administration piece. 

“hey mike, you breathe in any of the CS gas the guys you're doing stenography for fired off or are you too busy licking boot," tweeted @BeltransMole23.  

 

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