As protests in Portland have reached their 60th day, marking roughly two months of demonstrations that have been marked by peaceful rallies and violent clashes with federal and local police, video posted on social media Saturday appeared to show individuals torching the American flag outside a federal courthouse.
Over the weekend, the unrest in Portland, which was sparked by the death of George Floyd, has showed no signs of stopping, with one group appearing to wield a homemade flamethrower to torch to the flag outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. Elijah Schaffer, a member of conservative media company Blaze Media, posted the video to Twitter on Saturday.
Using a blow torch, Antifa burns an American flag they hung over the courthouse barrier
Why would you bring a blow torch to a peaceful protest?
This further debunks the theory Portland police are starting the street fires
Antifa & #blm arsonists have come to this prepared pic.twitter.com/ay8ceKgDHc— ELIJAH RIOT (@ElijahSchaffer) July 26, 2020
Initially claiming that it was members of Antifa, an “anti-fascist” activist group, behind the incident, Schaffer wrote: “Using a blow torch, Antifa burns an American flag they hung over the courthouse barrier.”
“Why would you bring a blow torch to a peaceful protest?” the conservative media member then questioned.
Upon close inspection, however, it is unclear whether a blow torch is being used in the video. In another video published online by The Daily Caller, a demonstrator can be seen torching the American flag with what appears to be a homemade flamethrower, using a lighter and an aerosol can.
In that video, the U.S. flag can be seen falling apart after being lit up in flames with the makeshift flamethrower. It is unclear whether the videos captured the same incident. However, Schaffer claimed that video of the flag-burning “further debunks the theory Portland police are starting the street fires.”
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was recently forced to apologize for making such a claim after she accused police officers of infiltrating protests and starting the blazes themselves. Hardesty had made the accusation during an interview with Marie Claire, in which she said police had deployed “provocateurs” during the civil rights protests of the 1960s to infiltrate protests groups and “do disruptive stuff.”
“I have no doubt in my mind, I believe with all my heart, that that is what Portland police are doing,” she said at the time. “I believe Portland Police is lying about the damage—or starting the fires themselves—so that they have justification for attacking community members,” Hardesty said.
After facing backlash for making the comments without providing evidence, however, the Portland city commissioner apologized for the remarks.
“We all have bad days but most of them don’t happen publicly,” she said. “I have always said we can disagree without being disagreeable, but today I did not meet that standard, and I’m sorry.”
While Schaffer accused both Antifa and Black Lives Matter “arsonists” of being behind the U.S. flag burning over the weekend, there is no clear indication that the individuals involved belong to either group. In recent days, protests in Portland, which started with demands for systemic racism to be addressed following Floyd’s death, have dominated headlines, with unrest appearing to escalate after the Trump administration deployed federal officers to the city.
Local and state officials have pushed back against the deployment, demanding that the Trump administration pull its federal officers off Portland’s streets. The U.S. government has rejected those calls, however, asserting that its officers will remain in Portland as long as federal property is at risk.