Iler: Feds fight freedom with fire in ‘Little Beirut’

Don Iler is a former news editor of the News-Register now living in Portland with his wife, Amelia, where he drives for Tri-Met. He was raised in Bend and served five years in the Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist. Later, he studied history at Oregon State University and served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.
Don Iler is a former news editor of the News-Register now living in Portland with his wife, Amelia, where he drives for Tri-Met. He was raised in Bend and served five years in the Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist. Later, he studied history at Oregon State University and served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

For the News-Register

Early Tuesday morning, I drove the Line 15 bus through downtown Portland. The smell of explosives and tear gas hung in the air, stinging my nostrils through my facemask. The road supervisor was at the stop at S.W. Fifth and Salmon removing a temporary closure sign. He leaned in my window, “I think there’s still some debris in the street, but it looks OK down there. Have fun driving through a Third World country.”

Yellow tear gas dust, black marks from exploded ordinance covered the streets around the graffiti-laden Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. People milled around Riot Ribs, the free food pop-up in the park, and trash and debris were strewn in the streets.

Just another day in “Little Beirut,” a nickname given to Portland by former President George H.W. Bush.

Portland has felt like a dystopian fantasy the past week. President Trump deployed federal law enforcement officers to the city, against the wishes of local officials, to supposedly protect federal property. Since their arrival, they have shot a man in the face, assaulted protestors, snatched people off the streets, throwing them into unmarked vans, and shot off countless canisters of tear gas. Their arrival only increased the size of protests, which had begun to run their course after months of unrest.

Last Friday, my wife and I joined the protest at the Justice Center. We listened to speeches, hip-hop performers, danced a little and walked around. We stood in the park, across the street from the Federal Office, when federal agents dressed in military uniforms, gas masks and body armor suddenly stormed out of the building. “Go home!” we shouted, and “We don’t want you here!” Someone shouted, “Traitors!” I yelled, “Go back to Alabama!”

Just as quickly as they appeared, and without provocation, the shooting started. Flash bang grenades exploded. The agents pepper sprayed protestors in the face and charged with batons across the street. Tear gas canisters were hurled at the crowd. I heard the pitter-patter of rubber bullets shooting. I coughed from the gas and tears streamed down my wife’s face as we backed away from the cloud. As suddenly as they appeared, they left, like it had all been a show at a totalitarian carnival.

I was furious. How could a country I served for in the Marines trample our rights to peaceful assembly and free speech?

We returned Saturday night. The crowd was even larger, skewing somewhat older and more diverse. We chanted and marched in front of the courthouse. Again, suddenly and without warning, agents appeared from the courthouse and ran up Main Street. They shot off flash bangs, tear gas, rubber bullets. Mothers linked arms and stood in the street. The agents dispatched by the president attacked them with pepper spray, hit them, pushed them to the ground. My wife yanked at my arm to pull me away from the fracas. A veteran wearing a Navy sweatshirt and hat — the soon to be famous “Captain Portland” — stood there with his hands up. The feds repeatedly hit him with their batons and sprayed him with pepper spray.

After what I had witnessed Friday night, it didn’t shock me. “They don’t care you’re a veteran,” I said to my wife, “they don’t care; doesn’t he know they don’t care?” We walked away coughing from the gas, terrified we would be batoned next as they stormed up the street. We passed the burned-out plinth of the elk statue, my wife unable to see until we flushed her eyes with water.

The federal agents don’t care who we are as a city or a state. They disregard our constitutional rights as Americans or Oregonians. They aren’t here to serve or protect us. They don’t care if you’re a mom, a veteran, a taxpayer, a good person, a citizen or not. They are here to inflict fear and damage. I’m not sure where it’s going, but from what I saw last weekend, no one seems safe and it could get worse. Maybe it’s too late, maybe it won’t matter, but I am out there protesting because I have to act now before it is too late for our democracy.

On Friday, after the tear gas was shot and the crowd was backing away from the gas, I walked into the street toward the agents by myself. I yelled in rage at them. I was so angry as a veteran seeing my city turned into a war zone by my own government. Why did I serve to protect and defend the Constitution, my country, my home, my freedoms, if it is just going to end up like this, in a cloud of bullets and gas, with screaming and pain on American soil perpetrated by Americans?

I am so angry.

I will be back out in the streets until they are gone. Otherwise, this will continue to resemble some Third World banana republic run by a tyrant.

Don Iler is a former news editor of the News-Register now living in Portland with his wife, Amelia, where he drives for Tri-Met. He was raised in Bend and served five years in the Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist. Later, he studied history at Oregon State University and served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.



It seems our dear leader is using these federal forces as a campaign prop, attempting to put for the narrative that only he stands between the people and chaos. His narrative is ludicrous or course, no one person has ever loosed more chaos on the nation than the Donald. Anything to distract from the never ending sheer incompetence of this administration, incompetent failures all from the top to the bottom; the only skill required for a top post being unquestioning fealty to DJT. November cannot come fast enough.


I'm terrified. I am ordered to be at that courthouse next month for jury duty. If I don't show, Marshals knock on my door. What if the Anonymous Gestapo is still present in the building? My poker face sucks and unlikely to keep composure!
Is the building being watched by agitators for our comings and goings?
I served this country and am 100% behind this movement. I also recognize that as long as some non-peaceful agitators attack buildings it discounts the message (which is what Heir Drumpf wants) to the destruction while leaving the true message of equal justice under the law in the background.

Bill B

Just when I thought the News Register was beginning to move a little back to the center it prints an inflammatory piece that is anything but on center. First it's not an opinion piece. It's written as a reporter would

Bill B

Very disappointing. And what difference does it make that this bus driver was a former N R editor?


Thanks N/R - please continue to disregard the folks who don't want to know the facts, and who persist in their determination to shoot the messenger.


Here we go again with the Queen of Facts. Of course it would be a conspiracy theory to many to consider the "fact" that these anarchists are PAID to be there and are moving from town to town in these cities being run by these mayors. Because if they really cared they would have stopped this destruction and demanded that the protests be what they are supposed to be which is peaceful and void of destruction and chaos. And that maybe it's the plan until the election to keep this going and keep the idiot Biden hidden away with only planned and written speeches to read every few days and stay on script because it's pretty well known that he can't string together two sentences that make any type of sense. That the DNC can keep this going as long as possible to just try to slide up to the election. This is in no way random.


Finch- No one is paying protestors to be there, so yes it is a conspiracy theory.


Wanna bet?


I don’t think your willingness to bet would serve as proof for most people.....got anything else?



Although you probably disprove the source I've heard many of Lawrence Jones interviews and those of others. Paid or not these people are organized and going city to city. Also, it was reported by another person that the 'wall of moms' have actually been seen previous nights in Antifa shirts.


"Paid or not..." It was reported..."


Journalism is based on hard facts, not idle fantasy and speculation. I see not a shred of evidence for your web of insinuation.



Steve, maybe you can explain that to some of your colleagues in the big leagues.


I am amused by the new title bestowed upon me in an earlier post, and it is humorous that a fellow anonymous commenter has assigned a gender to my identity. A Fox article is cited in that same post to support an opinion, I will acknowledge that I consider Fox to be a fact-free source of dangerous misinformation therefore I did not read it.

Fox has perverted our politics and divided our nation, which is disturbing enough, but the way they have denied and misrepresented the facts about the pandemic has endangered our health and worsened the crisis. And at present Fox continues to gas-light, to defend and justify the unconstitutional dictatorial actions brought to bear by our disgraceful so-called “leadership.” Buy their propaganda at your own peril. If Trump and Barr get away with this, God only knows what is next. Kiss the Constitution good bye.

Re the protests, we are watching democracy in action - it is messy and complicated. There are very bad actors availing themselves of the opportunity to create chaos. Despicable! There are dedicated law enforcement officers putting their lives on the line to protect the rights of the protesters. (The majority of whom are honorable public servants who deserve respect and gratitude.) And there are American citizens all across the country determined to call attention to injustice and fight for change. They speak for me and I salute them. I appreciate the moms and dads and Veterans who show up to help protect them.

I value the first-hand account reported in Mr. Iler’s article. We are on the precipice of a police state. We need all eyes and ears on this horrifying turn of events. And thanks again to the N/R for publishing the observations. This publication takes A LOT of flak for printing factual information. Would one of the constant critics care to explain what makes a fact liberal or conservative?


This was one of the most unintentionally hilarious stories I've read in this antifa propaganda rag. The angst. The righteous indignation in the defense of rioting. Well done "community newspaper". You lost your Nick Kristof to Trimet.


When someone is so proudly PRO-fascism, when that person professes great pleasure reading about the suffering of others, when that safely anonymous person stoops to using Nick Kristof’s name to spew cryptic snark, the N/R is DEFINITELY not the publication for someone with those values. (Alex Jones runs a delusional hate-inspired forum, why not head on over there and kick the tires?)


Treefarmer. I know you don't like Fox News but given the near constant censorship by the mainstream media of news that doesn't fit the narrative I don't see how Fox can't be in a well balanced news rotation. That is the most prevalent form of bias in media today - what they do not report. A few recent examples are below.



Hey Robs – it is true that I hold Fox in low esteem, but I do watch selected programs on the network. I never miss Chris Wallace and Howard Kurtz on Sunday, occasionally I will watch as much of Tucker Carlson as I can tolerate without becoming nauseated. I do find his outrageous lies and distortions very helpful in understanding where some of the “opinions” I read and hear originate. There is also some so-called “liberal” reporting I can only take in small doses.

I totally agree with your observations about the need for a well-balanced news diet. The alternative is to atrophy in a bubble. Bad for people, bad for democracy.

So – how goes the novel?? Has isolation been a help or a hindrance? Inquiring minds want to know. :-}


I know what you mean. I sure miss the old CNN. They used to be my centrist reference point. I don't really know of one anymore. The closest I've found is business news but you have to sort of like that stuff. Someone on this forum posted this site (https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-chart) which seems to grab news from a variety of sources.

Thanks for asking about the book. Its going pretty well. I was able to get it out before my stepdad passed which was a real blessing because of all the encouragement he provided. I think people are liking it - it seems to be reviewing well. I am starting on book 2 of the series and sort of miss the routine I had before the shut-down. I think I was more productive but probably just need to buckle down and adapt.


What a treat to read Don Iler once again!


"Lil Beirut" was not made, formed or financed by the feds, PPD, or anyone that represents Oregonians. People often confuse the initial sparks that started all of this conflagration we are seeing consuming America's underbelly as if it were started by Trump and is somehow part of his MAGA campaign. The unmitigated truth is that this whole melee was begun by protesters, many of which were sent here to cause havoc and mayhem.


Hibb: What is the source for your "unmitigated truth" assertion that many of the protesters "were sent here to cause havoc and mayhem." I have consumed an emormous amount of first-person coverage of the protests, more than 60 straight days of them, and have yet to see that anywhere. Do you have a name, hometown, longterm lodging location and room, board and transportation benefactor for any of these alleged outside agitators? From what I understand, it's simply been wave after wave of Portlanders, most of them behaving a lot more peaceably than the heavily armed and armored forces arrayed against them. What's the source of your evident certainty?


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