Federal Police Buy 1,000 Pairs of Sunglasses to Protect Officers From Protesters’ Lasers

Portland protesters and federal police are now in a battle of dueling leaf blowers.

Lasers along the federal courthouse fence on July 23, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

The U.S. Federal Protective Service is spending $125,000 on sunglasses to protect federal officers' eyes from lasers shone at them by protesters, according to a procurement request.

The July 10 document cites the use of lasers by Portland protesters as a reason to buy 1,000 pairs of StingerHawk FT-2 Laser Protective Eyewear.

"Our FPS personnel saw these lasers used firsthand in Portland," the request says, "and had discussions with Seattle police officers who felt the effects on the first night of rioting and then utilized laser-resistant safety glasses and expressed that they were very effective."

Each pair costs $125. The document says the glasses are needed for officers across the nation, because lasers could cause flash blindness, burns, retinal bleeding and headaches.

The purchase of the glasses is one maneuver in the increasingly dangerous and outlandish standoff occurring each night outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland. That confrontation, reinvigorated by President Donald Trump deploying federal police to Portland, now focuses on a metal fence erected outside the courthouse.

Last night, video shows, federal officers and Portland protesters both carried leaf blowers, and used them to blast tear gas clouds back and forth across the fence. The protesters have wielded leaf blowers for several nights, but Saturday was the first occasion federal police responded with their own.

In a media call this afternoon, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Craig Gabriel said six federal officers were injured on July 24, including one hit directly with a commercial-grade firework. Gabriel said federal officials hoped to tone down the nightly confrontation—but protesters had to stop damaging the fence in an effort to get at the courthouse.

"Members of the crowd have used power tools, vehicles and ropes to try to tear down that fence," he said. "If the protesters don't seek to damage or destroy the fence, federals officers have no need to go outside the fence or leave the property."

While Gabriel's tone was conciliatory, the message was clear: Federal officials are refusing the pleas of city and state leaders to leave Portland or stay inside the courthouse.

Gabriel said federal police have arrested 60 people around the courthouse this month, and charged 46 of them with crimes, mostly misdemeanors.

He also responded to rumors that private contractors are working among federal agents in policing the Portland streets. "There are contract security guards who work on this courthouse on an overnight basis," Gabriel said. "They're not having any interaction with the crowd whatsoever."

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