PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Navy veteran who was beaten by federal officers with batons during demonstrations outside the Federal Courthouse and Justice Center in downtown Portland testified before members of Congress on Tuesday morning.
Christopher David spoke on his experience in downtown Portland during the 51st night of Portland in a Democratic roundtable. On that 51st night of protests, David was struck repeatedly by federal enforcement officers outside the courthouse building after approaching the officers — saying he simply wanted to speak with them.
Below is the video that captured the nation’s attention, shot by Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling. You can read his account of the night here.
During his opening statement in the Democratic roundtable, David testified that what he witnessed in downtown Portland was “a shocking attack by our own government on peaceful citizens expressing their support for Black Lives Matter and police reform.” He said his experience is permanently shaped by his own service to this country.
He then expressed his disappointment in the actions of federal officers.
“I had always believed that when taking the oath of office, everyone else believed as we did when we took ours. That was my hope. My lodestar. That was how the United States of America continued to strive and make itself better,” he said. “But I was wrong. Very wrong.
“Having watched the early days of July turn what were predominantly peaceful protests into violence in a small area in downtown Portland, I came to understand that for some people, the oath is just a set of words, not a calling.”
He further condemned the unmarked officers seen pulling protesters into mini-vans, as shown on video widely circulated on social media. These acts, he said, were appalling to see.
“If the U.S. government could do this to our fellow citizens, where would it end? Anybody can buy surplus military uniforms and rent a mini-van. How do we now know that these really are the Feds when it happens again? What if it’s really the Proud Boys? Or the Boogaloos?” he asked. “This was a slippery slope with massive implications for all our freedoms, not just the freedom of speech.”
When he first came downtown, David said he was stunned to see how little of the city was actually affected.
“Four square city blocks! That was it. From what the administration had been telling us, all of downtown Portland was in flames with uncontrolled and widespread looting everywhere,” he said. “Nope. Just four, square city blocks.”
David compared the air of the protests to almost festival-like when he first arrived. People were excited by their cause — but that changed later in the night as demonstrators began anticipating the arrival of federal authorities.
“When the federal officers emerged from the courthouse, I saw them rush at the peaceful protestors in the southwest intersection, plowing into them and knocking them down,” David said. “I watched this happen in shock.”
It was then, David said, that the officers turned their attention to him.
“The first one leveled his weapon at me as he approached then lowered it. A second officer then plowed into me and knocked me back several feet. I then squared up, stood my ground, still stunned by what was happening,” he explained. “A smaller officer then proceeded to hit me with a baton five times as other officers sprayed a chemical irritant into my face from very short range. Blinded and with a broken hand, I offered the officers a disgusted farewell salute and then started back toward the park — and into a giant cloud of teargas.”
David said he sat on a park bench and a field medic named Tav came to his rescue and guided him to someone’s car as he attempted to see through the teargas stinging and clouding his eyes. David said although he saw it as an amazing act of courage by Tav, it was just another night of selfless bravery by him and the others out in the field.
“This is the country that we have now become. Selfless, volunteer civilian combat medics are needed to rescue their fellow citizen from the depredations of the federal government. There is one thing that gives me hope, however, and that is the many people from different backgrounds who are raising their voices against this outrage.”
To end his testimony, David stated two final things — first, that Black lives matter. Secondly, he said he is not “fake news,” that he is real and that the actions he was subjected to did happen in Portland at the hand of federal officers.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather