Federal agents are snatching protesters off the streets of Portland. These companies are profiting.
Police confront Black Lives Matter supporters in Portland, Oregon (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Since July 14, unidentified federal agents in Portland, deployed at the direction of President Trump, have been using unmarked vehicles to ambush and forcibly detain Black Lives Matter protesters. Many of these officers, reports reveal, are from the Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), known as the SWAT team of CBP. And some of the nation's largest consulting and public relations firms are being paid millions to support CBP's operations.
Officers have been “driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off,” Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports. “Officers are also detaining people on Portland streets who aren’t near federal property, nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity.” Federal agents have also repeatedly tear-gassed and attacked protesters. This past weekend, officers tear-gassed a group of moms and beat a Navy Vet protester who wanted to ask officers whether they felt they were “following their oath to the Constitution.”
Trump confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security deployed a special task force, the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), to Portland on July 2 as part of an executive order to protect federal monuments from whom he describes as “anarchists and agitators.” The Nation, which obtained an internal CBP memo dated July 1, reports that PACT “has been tasked not only to assess civil unrest but also to ‘surge’ resources to protect against it.”
“Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as injure federal officers and agents. These criminal actions will not be tolerated,” said a CBP spokesperson in a statement.
Other federal forces in Portland are part of the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group. Earlier in the week, on July 11, a U.S. Marshals officer shot an unarmed protester in the head with impact munition, leaving the victim with severe skull and facial fractures.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told CNN on Sunday that the presence of federal officials is “actually leading to more violence and more vandalism,” calling the tactics “unconstitutional,” “abhorrent,” and a “direct threat to our democracy.” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also condemned the Trump administration for its “blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley told the Daily Beast, “CBP is operating as a shadowy paramilitary force in Portland and other places throughout the country, and this is absolutely horrific and unacceptable.”
Despite this, Trump continues to threaten to deploy more federal officials to Portland and other cities as well. This week, Homeland Security is planning to send roughly 150 federal agents to Chicago, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Several of the nation's largest consulting and public relations firms — including Deloitte, Ogilvy, Booz Allen Hamilton, and McKinsey — have issued passionate statements expressing their support for racial justice in the United States. But these same companies have lucrative contracts that support CBP's activity.
Deloitte: $308,438,589.71 in contracts with the CBP since March 2017
On June 4, Deloitte US CEO Joe Ucuzoglu wrote an open letter to staff condemning systemic racism and committing the company "to drive meaningful and lasting change in our communities." An excerpt:
Since our note on Saturday, we have heard from many of you—sharing your personal experiences with systematic racism and bias, feedback on our firm’s culture, including ideas on how we can improve racial injustice and bias especially with the black community, and suggestions on calls to action for Deloitte to lead the changes in society that we all want to see. As the leaders of our firm, we are not only actively listening, we are committed to action.
Tomorrow (Friday June 5th), we will come together as a Deloitte community to honor the victims of racial injustice, and to learn, listen, and start exploring and defining ideas of concrete actions we can take as an organization to positively impact change.
Ucuzoglu did not mention that the company had inked $308,438,589.71 in contracts with the CPB since Trump took office — an agency that is now using force to stop people from protesting racism on the streets of Portland.
Last year, Deloitte drew scrutiny for having over $100 million in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The company claimed that it did not do any work associated with the physical border wall or the separation of children from their parents. But Popular Information reported that Deloitte staff was involved in the creation of a slide deck presentation intended to convince Congress to fund a border wall. Deloitte also signed a contract to assist with the operations of the Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC). That facility is described as a "tactical force multiplier" for enforcement and removal operations that "operates round-the-clock 365 days per year." An ACLU attorney told Popular Information that PERC's "whole business... is separating families and putting mothers and fathers and brothers and people's kids in detention centers and sending them away."
A recent multi-million dollar contract awarded by CBP to Deloitte and other consulting firms appears likely to assist the agency in the surveillance of protesters in Portland and elsewhere. The contract includes a range of services including, "knowledge management," "business intelligence," and "capability analysis and support."
Deloitte did not respond to a request for comment.
Ogilvy: $35,334,633.97 in contracts with CBP since September 2017
On its corporate website, public relations giant Ogilvy says that everyone has an obligation to address societal racism through radical transformation.
[J]ustice is only achieved when the most vulnerable party is protected, made whole, and/or becomes better off. As a result, reform and rights generally focus on those three outcomes. Justice demands that we radically transform the system. ‘We’ being the operative word. All of us. Everyday citizens, leaders, and beyond. And that includes brands. Racial inequity is both a collective problem to redress, and a shared responsibility to solve. The greater the resources, influence, and platform of any individual actor – the greater their accountability.
Not mentioned is that Ogilvy has inked $35,334,633.97 of contracts with CBP since Trump took office. The company is now providing public relations support for an agency that is trying to end protests of racism with tear gas and random arrests.
In 2019, Ogilvy CEO John Seifert defended the company's work with the CBP. "I have concluded that our work for CBP is genuinely intended to improve the quality of this government agency’s public services," Seifert said. At the time, the company's work focused on "employee recruitment." Advertisements produced by Ogilvy aim "to humanize the organization and its employees, using words like 'compassion.'"
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Booz Allen Hamilton: $12,480,644.14 in contracts with the CBP since September 2018
Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm, says that it will be a "catalyst for change" in the fight for racial justice.
For us, saying "black lives matter" is not a political statement. It's a statement of our fundamental beliefs about the value of human life and the right of every citizen to live without fear. Our leadership team and thousands of employees share a collective vision: to make Booz Allen a sustained catalyst for change in the fight against racial injustice.
The firm does not discuss that the company has inked $12,480,644.14 in contracts with the CBP.
"We are not involved in the activities that are occurring in Portland. For many years we have provided support to the Department of Homeland Security, conducting technical work related to combating human trafficking, terrorism and other criminal behavior. We only perform work that is consistent with our values," Jessica Klenk, a spokesperson for Booz Allen Hamilton, told Popular Information.
The Department of Homeland Security considers the protesters in Portland to be "violent anarchists."
McKinsey: $6,762,299.09 in contracts with the CBP since August 2017
McKinsey, another management consulting firm, said it was committed to "break down unacceptable barriers to equality and opportunity."
While we all feel the heartache, the pain and frustration are especially deep for our Black colleagues. We want to send a simple, clear and unequivocal message: we stand with our Black colleagues, their families, friends and communities.
...We are amplifying our commitment to do our part to ensure that Black lives are spoken for and valued, both inside our firm and beyond. We will use our skills productively to help our local communities break down unacceptable barriers to equality and opportunity.
McKinsey, however, has inked $6,762,299.09 in contracts with the CBP since Trump took office. Its skills are now being used to support an agency that is quashing protests of racial inequality in Portland.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Thanks for reading!