Agents Provocateur

Agents provocateur are a standard element of the anarchist playbook. They’ll get in with some peaceful protestors, and then break a bank window or set a police car on fire. Anarchists believe that if they can provoke a law enforcement reaction, the people will rise up against the police in response.

But anarchists aren’t the only ones who utilize the agent provocateur tactic.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A masked man who was seen in a viral video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store during the George Floyd protests, earning him the moniker “Umbrella Man,” is suspected to be a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang seeking to incite racial tension in a demonstration that until then had been peaceful, police said.

A Minneapolis police arson investigator said the man’s actions at the AutoZone on East Lake Street set off a chain reaction that led to days of looting and rioting. The building was later burned to the ground.

So there’s that. And there’s this, from Wikipedia:

COINTELPRO (syllabic abbreviation derived from COunter INTELligence PROgram) (1956–1979, and beyond) is a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting American political organizations. FBI records show that COINTELPRO resources targeted groups and individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, including feminist organizations, the Communist Party USA, anti–Vietnam War organizers, activists of the civil rights movement or Black Power movement (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr., the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Party), environmentalist and animal rights organizations, the American Indian Movement (AIM), independence movements (such as Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords), and a variety of organizations that were part of the broader New Left. The program also targeted the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.

In 1971 in San Diego, the FBI financed, armed, and controlled an extreme right-wing group of former members of the Minutemen anti-communist para-military organization, transforming it into a group called the Secret Army Organization that targeted groups, activists, and leaders involved in the Anti-War Movement, using both intimidation and violent acts.

The FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception; however, covert operations under the official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971. COINTELPRO tactics are still used to this day and have been alleged to include discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media; harassment; wrongful imprisonment; and illegal violence, including assassination. According to a senate report, the FBI’s motivation was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order”.

If there aren’t undercover LEOs mixed in the peaceful protestors in Portland and other cities, then the police in those cities aren’t doing their jobs. How easy is it to infiltrate a protest where all the protesters wear masks?

Now I’m not saying that governmental agents provocateur are setting fires and breaking windows and throwing rocks. But maybe they’re not doing all they could to dissuade that kind of behavior before it gets out of control.

LIke last Sunday night, the rabble set a fire in the entryway of the Federal Building in Portland.

From local television station

On Sunday, July 20, 2020, [sic] people gathered in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland. Hundreds of people stood blocking SW 3rd Avenue while dozens of others tampered with the fence around the courthouse.

At about 9:40 p.m. people in the crowd breached the fence enough to allow access to the area fenced off. The crowd chanted and pulled at the fence for about ninety minutes. At about 11:20 p.m. federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse for a few minutes and attempted to repair the fence, then went back inside.

At about 11:35 p.m. people began climbing the fence and at about 11:43 p.m. people pulled down the fence allowing access to the area in front of the courthouse. Dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, and hockey sticks approached the doors of the courthouse. Federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse at about 11:50 p.m. and dispersed the crowd.

Over the next two hours hundreds of people wandered around downtown Portland many regrouping on SW 3rd Avenue in front of the courthouse, in the adjacent parks and around the Justice Center. At 1:31 a.m. a person climbed onto the northwest corner of the Justice Center to tamper with a security camera. At 1:34 a.m. people lit a fire within the portico in front of the federal courthouse. Others gathered around the fire adding wood and other debris to make it larger.

At 1:42 a.m. federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse, dispersed the crowd and extinguished the fire.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. But don’t you think that maybe the feds could have put a stop to it before the fire got started? Maybe the feds were waiting for a little active anarchy to justify their aggressive posturing?

Like I said, I wasn’t there. But this guy was.


Although protests in Portland have been going on for weeks, Christopher David, 53, told the Associated Press he decided to join the protest for the first time Saturday night because [he] was disturbed by reports of federal officers in unmarked cars arresting people without explanation.

“What they were doing was unconstitutional,” said David, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Navy veteran. ”Sometimes I worry that people take the oath of office or the oath to the Constitution, and it’s just a set of words that mean nothing. They really don’t feel in their heart the weight of those words.”

David said the federal officers came charging out of the federal building and plowed into a group of protesters. He said he stood his ground after one officer shoved him backward. Another officer pointed a semi-automatic weapon at his chest.

“They came out to fight,” David said.

Are the Federal agents in Portland trying to provoke confrontations to justify their over-the-top use of force, and thereby convince the nation that the United States is under attack by lawless agitators?

Are they working to deescalate the situation?

The protesters in Portland are largely peaceful. People who characterize them as lawless or violent should revisit their “bad apple” argument.

The Bill of Rights isn’t for people who are served by the established order. Those people can sit in their Lazy Boys with the clicker clenched in their sweaty fist and channel surf till they find something to comfort them on the tube. They can log onto the internet and vent on El Chuqueño about those commies in Portland.

The First Amendment is about protest. Protest is about dissatisfaction. And people looking to start trouble can turn a peaceful protest into a violent protest.

For some people, violence isn’t the answer. It’s just an intermediate step.


  1. Of course, all those innocent people carrying weapons, incendiary devices and home made bombs night after night for more than 60 days were forced to commit bad acts by the police. Maybe you should go there and do a series of stories from inside the protests themselves. Then you can tell us what is really happening on the ground with the evil police.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *