14-Step Action Plan for Stopping Targeted Violence in America’s Cities

Report Homeland Security

14-Step Action Plan for Stopping Targeted Violence in America’s Cities

August 6, 2020 17 min read Download Report


Violent riots in Portland and other cities across America must stop. Violent groups have hijacked what were originally peaceful protests, and members of the media and liberal politicians are complicit. To combat the violence that these groups are using in their quests to fundamentally transform America, law enforcement, policymakers, and local leaders should adopt the 14 points proposed in this Backgrounder to restore order and to put their communities on the path toward recovery. Broadly speaking, those in power must protect people and property, prosecute those committing crimes, communicate the truth to the American public about the groups committing the violence and their aims, and help communities to recover from the violence.

Key Takeaways

After two months of nightly riots in Portland, it is clear that more must be done to stop organized violence and restore order in Portland and other U.S. cities.

It is the poor, including minorities, who are most often affected by such riots.

Government officials and civil society should step up efforts to protect citizens and property, prosecute criminals, communicate the truth, and advance recovery.

After two straight months of nightly riots in Portland, Oregon, it is clear that more needs to be done to stop organized violence and regain order in Portland and other U.S. cities. This issue is bigger than protecting federal buildings and the federal personnel guarding those buildings. Government officials, the private sector, civil society, and the media should implement plans to protect citizens and property, prosecute criminals at the state and federal level, and communicate the truth about who the perpetrators are, what they are actually doing, and why it is a threat to democracy. It is time to restore law and order in these communities so that citizens and business owners can get back to a peaceful daily existence.

Local and state politicians must encourage, not dissuade or prevent, cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to protect citizens and property. Federal and state prosecutors should be allowed to do what they do best: work together to identify who is committing crimes, determine whether those crimes are violations of state or federal law, and indict those responsible. Taking criminals off the street is job number one. If those criminals are part of an organized group, law enforcement and prosecutors should investigate the leaders and those providing support to the criminals, and hold them accountable as well.

It is the poor, including minorities, who are most often affected by such riots. State and local governments can assist in repair-and-recovery efforts by removing as much red tape as possible for business and home owners to quickly rebuild and resume normalcy.

Violent Groups Hijacked Peaceful Protests, Media and Liberal Politicians Complicit

What started as a series of mostly peaceful assemblies of people protesting the wrongful death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has become a series on ongoing protests unrelated to Floyd’s killing, punctuated by violence against police, arson, looting, vandalism, property destruction, and more. In Portland, rioters have been attacking the federal courthouse for months, requiring federal officers to prevent the building from being overrun by a well-armed mob. George Floyd’s name is not invoked much anymore. Peaceful protests are rare. To make matters worse, state and local politicians, rather than supporting law enforcement officers, prevent them from fully executing their duties, and from cooperating with their federal counterparts. Rather than calling out those who are assaulting law enforcement officers and destroying property in their cities, these politicians give cover to the “peaceful protestors” and label the federal officers as the provokers.

At the same time, the liberal media seeks to provoke Americans right up until the November 3 presidential election by playing select video of law enforcement using riot-control tactics against the “peaceful protestors” on a continuous loop to give the impression that “President Trump’s America” is out of control and police are racist.

It is clear what is happening: Organized rioters are attacking federal law officers to provoke them into using force; the two-month, nightly, and pre-meditated assault by the rioters on law enforcement officers is designed to create the impression that federal law enforcement (whom the media, the rioters, and the radical groups have designated a proxy for President Trump) is the problem; that the only answer is to defund the police; and that local and state politicians are allowing the chaos to continue to feed the political narrative that President Trump has caused the problems plaguing America. Oregon’s governor even went so far as to say that “The Trump administration needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives.... We don’t have a secret police in this country. This is not a dictatorship. And Trump needs to get his officers off the streets.”REF

What is happening has nothing to do with free speech. It has nothing to do with the government preventing peaceful protests. Peaceful protestors do not stock street corners with crates of bricks to later throw at buildings and vehicles—and officers. Peaceful protestors do not shoot mortar-style fireworks into federal buildings in an attempt to burn the buildings down while barricading the exits. And, peaceful protestors do not aim high-powered lasers at police officers’ eyes in an attempt to blind them.

What is happening is that relatively small, but exceedingly violent, groups of people have been assaulting police officers, destroying buildings, and rioting to create chaos in select cities where they know that local politicians tacitly endorse their actions. Anarchists and other criminals are doing so, and state and city politicians look the other way, to create the impression that law enforcement itself is the problem, and that President Trump and those who support him are the real danger to America.

As Attorney General William Barr recently stated when appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Antifa is not a myth, but it is not a monolithic organization either. According to Barr, it can best be thought of as an umbrella term for groups of loosely organized anarchic organizations that tend to work most closely together in connection with specific events, which can result in coordinated mob violence.

Who Is Training and Supporting the Thugs and Why?

Americans have a right to know who, if anyone, is behind the rioters and who is supporting the destruction of their cities. Radical groups, such as Antifa and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network, seek funding, train organizers, and orchestrate riots across the country. The Trump Administration has labeled Antifa a domestic terrorist organization.REF The New York Times published a July 3 op-ed, in which the authors stated: “One of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter.”REF Americans need to know that the leaders of these organizations have been trained in Marxist revolutionary tactics by radicals who operate in the style of those of the 1960s. Three women, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, founded the BLM Global Network and continue to run the enterprise.REF Cullors herself told an interviewer in 2015 that she and Garza are “trained Marxists.”REF

The BLM Global Network has recently become “a project” of the Tides Center, a donor and supporter of the hard Left and its ideas.REF However, until July 10, 2020, the BLM Global Network had been “a project” of Thousand Currents, also a radical grant-making institution that financially supported the Global Network.REF These arrangements have allowed the Network to escape public scrutiny on how it spent its funds. The vice chair of the board of Thousand Currents is Susan Rosenberg, a former member of the 1960s Weather Underground, which the FBI classified as a domestic terrorist organization.REF

Rosenberg, whose sentence for domestic terrorism was commuted by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, is not Black Lives Matter’s only connection to the so-called Weathermen. Cullors trained for a decade with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, which was founded by Eric Mann, another Weatherman who served time in prison.REF Mann remains an unrepentant Marxist who wants to introduce global communism.REF

Meanwhile, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations just announced that they are investing $220 million to support several racial justice groups for years to come. Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Open Society Foundations, said in an interview that the groups believed that the investment was about harnessing the momentum toward racial justice.REF “Now,” he said, “is the moment we’ve been investing in for the last 25 years.” “[I]t’s time to double down. And we understood we can place a bet on these activists—Black and white—who see this as a moment of not just incrementalism, but whole-scale reform.” “The demands being made now will not be met overnight, and we know the gaze of media and elected officials will turn in other directions,” he added. “But we need these moments to be sustained.”REF

Alexander Soros, the deputy chair of his father’s Open Society, said in a statement that the new investment was a response to a time “for urgent and bold action.”REF “These investments will empower proven leaders in the Black community to reimagine policing [and] end mass incarceration….” This type of support has poured into state and local political campaigns for district attorney offices around the country. The successful campaigns have placed rogue prosecutors into office who refuse to prosecute many crimes, such as looting and rioting—the very crimes committed each night in Portland and elsewhere. As often as the police arrest the perpetrators, these rogue prosecutors refuse to prosecute them, and they are released back onto the street to riot again the next night.

Many Americans do not know of the Marxist roots of the current riots, who supports the riots, or what the true aims are, because the mainstream media is purposely silent about it. Objective investigative journalists with intellectual curiosity should examine the funding, training, organizers, and statements of the leaders of these groups and broadly report on it so that Americans know the truth.

The movement that started as legitimate and widely supported peaceful demonstrations to protest Floyd’s death has been hijacked by organized criminal activists and rioters who callously injure and kill people, and destroy private businesses and government property—and will continue to do so until they abolish police departments and prisons, and ultimately, fundamentally transform America. Their goal is long term and permanent. Much more needs to be done to stop the immediate violence and destruction, prevent future anarchy, inform the American public, and restore the damaged communities. Following are 14 recommendations to achieve those goals.

14 Recommendations for Law Enforcement, Policymakers, and Local Leaders

Protection. The first goal is to stop the criminal rioters in Portland and other cities, and prevent similar riots in the future.

Law enforcement leadership should:

1. Position additional supervisory law enforcement personnel around federal facilities, increasing the leader-to-follower ratio, to ensure proper law enforcement and engagement tactics. This is a costly and unusual technique. However, due to the current public affairs assault against law enforcement officers in general, and federal law enforcement officers in particular, increasing the number of supervisors can lower the risk of police misconduct under pressure and increase the proper use of techniques and technology, while supervisors can directly address challenges to police actions.

2. Draw a line and hold it. Federal law enforcement should define a line beyond which its officers will not allow the rioters to go, and prepare an overwhelming employment of federal law enforcement officers to make sure that further attacks on the Portland courthouse are not successful in the event that the line is crossed after all. This would include a significant high-profile influx of officers to drive the rioters back from the federal facilities. The local leaders must understand that this is not just rhetoric, but a firm plan that will be executed if the “trip wires” are crossed. Local leaders should be given the right of first refusal to do it themselves. When faced with the possibility of actually losing control of a major portion of their cities in a real-life self-fulfilling prophecy, these politicians may begin to do their jobs.

3. Seek meetings and communication directly between federal law enforcement officers and local police for coordination and discussions to avoid interference by local politicians. The majority of local officers are mortified by their inability to assist their federal colleagues. They know it is really their job to protect federal facilities in their cities. At worst, the local police could provide behind-the-scenes pressure on their political leaders to change the stand-down rules. At best, they could begin to call out their bosses for being disingenuous about who is really the threat in these situations. The local officers can also provide federal officers with valuable intelligence.

Local leaders should:

4. Provide citizen access to the federal judicial system or lose federal funds. City leaders who obstruct law enforcement from protecting federal property and staff are partially responsible when criminals attacking federal buildings cause federal courts and agencies to suspend services there. These political leaders are preventing their own citizens from accessing the judicial system and enjoying equal protection under the law. Federal agencies and conscientious organizations should pressure local leaders to restore and maintain order near federal buildings to ensure access to the judicial system and services for their citizens. The business of the federal government in cities where riots are taking place must continue. If local leaders refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement, they should not receive federal funds for their cities. While federal law enforcement, federal public defenders, federal prosecutors, and federal judges must continue their work in those cities, federal agencies should consider transferring other federal funds to other localities that are open for business because they respect and maintain law and order.

Prosecution. To hold those who violate state or federal law accountable, law enforcement and prosecutors must arrest, investigate, indict, and prosecute the criminals. Those who train, fund, materially support, or facilitate those criminals should also be investigated and prosecuted. Rogue prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals committing crimes in their cities should be called out, and their jurisdictions should no longer receive any federal grant money until they enforce the law as written.

Local prosecutors should:

5. Prosecute the rioters who violate state criminal law. Local and state leaders in cities where riots are happening have a duty to faithfully execute the state criminal laws as written. Many, if not most, of the crimes being committed in these cities by these miscreants are violations of state, not federal, law. They include assault, destruction of property, looting, arson, and others. To that end, local politicians have a duty to support local police, and a duty to allow them to do their job and keep the peace. If permitted to do their jobs, local police will arrest those who violate state law and work with local prosecutors to hold them accountable for violations of those laws.

6. Prosecute rioters who violate federal criminal law. In each of these cities where riots are allowed to continue, there are federal buildings and federal officers. Many of those federal officers live in the communities most affected by the riots. Federal authorities have the duty to protect federal property by lawful means. Those who violate federal law, by assaulting federal officers, crossing state lines to incite riots, attempting to destroy or burn federal property, destroying federal statues, and more should be arrested and prosecuted in federal district court, and if found guilty, punished accordingly.

Local and state politicians should:

7. Refrain from interfering in historical and successful law enforcement cooperation. For decades, federal and state authorities have worked side by side to combat crime. They share information, work cooperatively to keep the peace, and allow all Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty in a safe environment. Crime-ridden cities, such as Chicago, are challenges for state and federal authorities, and require ongoing cooperation. Local and state leaders should not hinder local and state law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the violence in cities around America.

Federal officials should:

8. Terminate federal funding to local authorities who refuse to prosecute all crimes fairly. Billions of federal tax dollars flow to the states to support law enforcement. This money is discretionary, and can be re-directed or cut off. That grant money goes to support local law enforcement, prosecutor’s offices, domestic violence shelters, and more. Rogue state prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals who break the law and contribute to the chaos should lose federal grant money from the Department of Justice and other federal departments until they do their job and prosecute all crimes fairly.

Communication. The media have a responsibility to report facts objectively so that the public knows what is happening in Portland and elsewhere.

The police should:

9. Use and release daily body camera footage. Federal, state, and local law enforcement should implement wide-spread use of body cameras and maintain separate recordings of rioting activities and encounters around the federal buildings. These videos should be released, in accordance with local laws and departmental policies, to the press and via social media every morning to provide a broader view of what occurs each night than what the Left and overtly biased media show. This campaign could begin with federal officers in Portland, and then spread to other trouble spots in the liberal-controlled cities and states. If the press will not show the despicable behavior of the rioters, federal officers should be able to do so. Releasing this footage through public affairs offices and especially through social media would tear the mask off the “mostly peaceful protestors” canard.

On July 30, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong granted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a temporary restraining order against the Portland Police Bureau’s practice of live streaming Internet videos of rioters. The ACLU claims the practice violates an Oregon law prohibiting law enforcement from collecting or maintaining information about the political, religious, or social views, associations, or activities of people who are not suspected of criminal activity. The temporary decision was not based on the merits of the case, and the violent rioters are reportedly committing numerous crimes.REF As such, the court should overturn this preliminary restraining order.

10. Brief Americans directly on law enforcement actions. Federal, state, and local law enforcement, together, should provide clear and frequent briefings on the legal and constitutional basis for all law enforcement actions taken. This must start with the actions in Portland and other liberal cities that are current hot spots of violence and chaos, and should become a regular practice when exceptional and prolonged law enforcement actions are necessary. Federal, state, and local leaders should enlist constitutional law experts to spearhead this effort. These briefings should be authoritative and clearly understandable for the American public.

Prosecutors should:

11. Inform the public of crimes committed and of how many criminals are involved. Using press briefings and statements, federal and state prosecutors should inform the American public of the number of people arrested each day, what they were arrested for, and if charged, what they were charged with. Since all persons are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, their names should not be released to the public until charged and convicted.

Politicians, business owners, and civil society members should:

12. Plan and execute extensive communications strategies to make the facts known. Assuming that the mainstream media will not start to report on this urban violence honestly any time soon,REF conscientious government officials at every level, business owners, organizations, and members of civil society should plan and execute communications strategies to inform the American public truthfully. Such communications should include who is committing these violent crimes in their cities, who is affected by the violence, and the cost of damage and recovery for businesses and taxpayers. This strong communications effort would overshadow the biased narrative of the criminal enterprise’s supporters, including far too many city, state, and federal politicians and members of the media. The American people are entitled to know what is happening in Portland, Seattle, and other American cities so that a democratic polity can make informed decisions.

Recovery. The prerequisite for recovery is making the streets safe and restoring public safety so citizens can address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and begin to build their own communities.

State and local governments should:

13. Eliminate Red Tape. To accelerate recovery for affected businesses and government agencies, state and local officials should waive, to the greatest extent possible, those government rules and restrictions that are likely to slow growth. This would help the cities to clean up and repair damage to businesses, houses, and public spaces more quickly. A clean and thriving community leads to higher housing values, pride in the community, and better community relations.

14. Re-open businesses and schools. COVID-19 has adversely affected many aspects of Americans’ lives and the pandemic response has aggravated the current urban violence. With so many people out of work and out of school, they have extra time on their hands to go to the site of the riots to watch, thereby increasing the crowds, or worse, to participate in the riots. Ensuring that it is done safely, getting people back to work and school would decrease the nightly crowds. This would help cities to recover faster from both the riots and COVID-19.

Lora Ries is Senior Research Fellow for Homeland Security in the Center for Technology Policy, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation. Mike Gonzalez is Senior Fellow at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy, of the Davis Institute. Steven P. Bucci, PhD, is a Visiting Fellow in the Davis Institute. Charles D. Stimson is Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the National Security Law Program in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, of the Institute for Constitutional Government, at The Heritage Foundation. Zack Smith is a Legal Fellow in the Meese Center. Katharine Cornell Gorka is Director of the Center for Civil Society and the American Dialogue, of the Edwin J. Feulner Institute, at The Heritage Foundation.


Lora Ries
Lora Ries

Director, Border Security and Immigration Center

Mike Gonzalez
Mike Gonzalez

Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow

Steven P. Bucci
Steven Bucci

Visiting Fellow, Truluck Center for Leadership Development

Charles Stimson

Senior Legal Fellow and Deputy Director, Meese Center

Zack Smith
Zack Smith

Senior Legal Fellow, Meese Center for Legal Studies

Katharine Cornell Gorka
Katharine Gorka

Former Research Fellow, Outreach