When it comes to setting the record straight on the anarchy and destruction happening in Portland, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams is not messing around.

Williams, who is the chief federal law enforcement official for Oregon, recently gave an interview outside Portland’s battered Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse where he took the wind out of the sails of a few reporters who had an angle to push.

The video of the interview, which I’ve linked below, is worth watching in its entirety. Here are some of the highlights:

When he was asked by one reporter what it was going to take to “turn the tide” in Portland, Williams made it clear that it wasn’t up to law enforcement to come up with the solution to end the violence. Instead, he said, it was up to the community:

WILLIAMS: Yeah, so what I think it’s gonna take, this has to be a community solution. It’s not a law enforcement solution, we’re responding, dealing with it, protecting this property just like the city police are protecting city property, but any real solution to stop the mindless violence that goes on has to come from the community, and I include various community leaders, faith leaders, business leaders working with whoever wants to join in a coalition – whatever you want to call that, the coalition of the willing, whatever.

After acknowledging that this was a time in our nation’s history where “lawful protesters” all over the country are calling for change, Williams told the gaggle of reporters in attendance that the “mindless violence” will not get them anywhere. He also said the violence had been “politicized,” which he believes “enables this to continue because no one in their right mind thinks this is okay.”

Williams’s comment about those politicizing the riots prompted another reporter to chime in and claim that “some say what’s politicized this though is the federal agents being here.”

This led to a back and forth exchange between Williams and the reporter where it became clear the reporter was attempting to paint a picture of federal overreach, which is a common talking point used by Democrats:

WILLIAMS: Yeah, the federal agents being here are protecting federal property, that is not accurate. Blaming federal agents for protecting federal property is an easy out for people who want to politicize this.

REPORTER 2: But are they protecting federal property when they’re out on the streets?

WILLIAMS: They’re not out on the streets, okay?

REPORTER 2: They were last night. They were out on the streets – there’s video of them outside of the fence … we’ve seen them out on the streets.

WILLIAMS: Okay, so we can review what took them out there, but again, this is such an easy political out for people who want to politicize what’s going on.

That same reporter then asked Williams if he believed President Trump was politicizing the violent riots taking place in the city. Williams was quick to alert the reporter that that wasn’t his “lane” before going on to point out how Portland was “losing its soul” thanks in part to feckless local leaders who were blaming law enforcement officers for setting the fires:

WILLIAMS: The politicizing of the violence is what I’m talking about, okay? I’m not going to get into a debate. I don’t walk in that lane. I walk in the law enforcement lane. This, look around, I mean, do you think it’s okay? Is there any justification for this? I hope not. I mean, Portland is losing its soul right now, and what’s coming out of City Hall, calling cops liars, that they’re the ones starting the fires and then blaming protesters, I mean, how ridiculous is that? That’s not leadership. So, what I will tell you is, this needs to stop. People lawfully protesting need to be able to do it safely and work together for the changes they’re asking for in a democratic – following democracy, and legislative changes, policy changes, whatever, but this isn’t accomplishing anything.

There was some back and forth between Williams and another reporter over Mayor Ted Wheeler attending the protests one night, with her insinuation being that he was showing the kind of leadership Williams claimed had been lacking in Portland. Williams took a moment to remind the reporter that even though Wheeler showed up to a protest that things got violent that night, too, thanks to the rioters and that they yelled at Wheeler and told him to go home. “That doesn’t help the city or [end] this, this just shows you the mindless violence people are willing to engage in,” Williams said to the reporter.

It was after that when things got really interesting. The reporter who brought up Wheelers’s alleged “leadership” then asked Williams if he believed the “the late night demonstrations” distracted “from the fight for racial justice” because apparently, it was essential to establish whether or not he was sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter cause.

The reporter calling the riots a “late night demonstration” didn’t sit well with Williams. He proceeded to explain to her what was really going on and how the media’s distorted coverage of the Portland riots was part of the problem. Take particular note of how the reporter says, “some may argue” during this part of their exchange, as another reporter similarly did earlier. The translation for “some may argue” here is “the media and Democrats argue.” Keep that in mind as you read on:

WILLIAMS: These aren’t late night demonstrations. This is criminal activity. There’s a difference. What you have failed, and the media have failed to distinguish, between, you seem unwilling to call people engaged in criminal conduct, as criminals, as opposed to lawful protesting.

REPORTER 3: Well, some may argue that the way the federal agents are acting is criminal too, and we’re not saying that.

WILLIAMS: Well, argue away on that.

REPORTER 3: But we’re not saying either, so.

WILLIAMS: I’m just saying there needs to be a distinction made between lawful, constitutionally protected protest, and this. This is unlawful. And people, whether you’re an opportunist, an antagonist, an agitator, or an anarchist, call it out for what it is.

REPORTER 3: So, you’re saying the late night activity that is criminal–

WILLIAMS: What I’m telling you, is you seem to refuse to call something, ‘late night activity,’ this is criminal.

REPORTER 3: I just said the late night activity that you say is criminal, right?

WILLIAMS: What I’m saying is, why can’t you call it out as such?

REPORTER 3: Because I’m not, I don’t have all the police records.

WILLIAMS: You’re using, ‘late night activity,’ it sounds like a party. It’s criminal. Look at the debris. We haven’t had a front door since July 3rd. That’s criminal, okay?

REPORTER 3: But I’m just saying, I’m not a police officer, I don’t get to distinguish that, that’s not my job.

WILLIAMS: No, but you can call it out for what it is. You’re choosing terms that sort of downplay the criminal activity, and what I’m suggesting is if there is an honest accounting of what this is, that helps build the reality check for how this can stop. That’s my point.

Watch the full interview below. The exchange about media coverage starts at around the 8:53 mark.

Both Williams and acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolff have said that federal officers will not pull out of Oregon until the threats to federal buildings are over.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter.


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