Responding to Portland violence, FBI says it will target violence, not ideology

The agency will be targeting 'violent acts or significant destruction of property.'

Updated: July 25, 2020 - 12:38pm

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The FBI on Friday issued a statement clarifying its involvement in the ongoing, sometimes violent demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, saying that its assignment is to investigate and counteract violent activism with no intention of targeting anyone on the basis of political belief. 

The agency's role in the conflict is to "investigate violent crime and hold those accountable who are engaging in violent acts or significant destruction of property," Portland Field Office Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said in a press release. 

"Our investigations involve specific violations of federal law, including arson, the use of improvised explosive devices, and interstate transportation of stolen goods," Cannon said further. "The Portland FBI seeks to work closely with our local law enforcement partners to ensure the community is safe and people are free to exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner."

Portland, like many other U.S. cities, has in recent months had numerous days and nights of activist marches, rallies and protests, demonstrations touched off by the still-ongoing wave of Black Lives Matter-led activism across the country.

Some of those incidents have turned violent, with protesters sometimes hurling projectiles at law enforcement in the streets. Federal agents were recently dispatched to Portland to stop the related destruction, particularly to secure a U.S. courthouse and other federal properties. 

The presence of the federal agents has sparked backlash from critics, most of them liberal, who say the effort is tantamount to a police state, federal overreach or a dictatorship. 

Cannon in his statement said that the FBI "can never initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion." 

"Our focus is not on membership in particular groups," he continued, "but on individuals who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security." 

"The FBI does not and will not police ideology," he added. 

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