A woman in her thirties, wearing only a beanie and a face mask, stepped between the fronts of police and protesters. The air was thick with tear gas and paprika spray.

The woman walked down the street naked until the confused cops retreated. She was nicknamed Naked Athens.

The tactics were strange but functional. It was just one example of the creative means by which protesters in Portland, Oregon, opposed the authorities.

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Tactics evolved

Anti-racism protests in the United States have continued for more than two months. I was there in late May in Minneapolis as the National Guard appeased the riots that broke out in the city, and I had just returned from Portland, where President Donald Trump commanded federal forces to oppose the protesters.

Where the National Guard disbanded crowds in Minneapolis quickly and efficiently, in Portland, federal police had great difficulty in controlling crowds.

This was partly due to the magnitude of the authorities' response. In Minneapolis, there were thousands of National Guards and police officers on the streets at their best, while the protested federal courthouse was protected by more than a hundred agents.

At the same time, it was also clear how the tactical means of the protesters have evolved in two months.

Police use tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to control the troops.

Photo: Lehtikuva / AFP / Nathan Howard

In both Minneapolis and Portland, authorities used similar means to manage the force. The clashes began with warning warnings, after which authorities usually fired at the crowd towards tear gas and stun grenades.

Exposure to tear gas is very painful. It blinds and blocks the breathing of its target. Stun grenades, or flashbangs, flash strongly when triggered and make a very loud sound.

Sometimes, but less often, the authorities also used rubber bullets. At close range, they resorted to pepper sprays and arrests.

Rackets and leaf blowers

In Minneapolis, crowds disintegrated rapidly as authorities used stun grenades and tear gas. People were afraid of the sound of grenades and ran away. At the latest, the tear gas set them in motion.

In Portland, these means did not have much effect. The protesters avoided running, as they said the police saw the flight as a reason to suspect a crime and thus a ground for arrest. Running large crowds can also lead to trampling.

Portland police used so much tear gas in the first weeks of the protests that protesters adapted. They were not intimidated by the stun grenades either. Many brought their own hearing protectors, and there were earplugs in the distribution.

In Portland, hundreds of people arrived for protests with gas masks. It is said that so many gas masks were bought in the city that it was impossible to find them within a tens of kilometers of the city.

Many had gas masks with them.

Photo: Amy Katz / Zuma / MVPhotos

Over time, protesters came up with other ways to fight the gas. Following the Hong Kong model of protests, they fought tear gas grenades and rubber bullets with umbrellas. Some arrived at the scene with big gloves in their hands and threw hot tear gas grenades back at the police lineup. Others shot them away with a hockey stick.

Because heating a tear gas grenade over a fence requires skill, lacrosse bats became more common. They make it easier to pick up the canister and wave it far away. On Thursday night, someone brought dozens of combinations of lacrosse rackets and umbrellas for use by protesters in a car around the courthouse.

Someone came up with the idea of ​​combining lacrosse rackets and umbrellas.

Photo: Reuters / CAITLIN OCHS

Some placed large orange plastic cones for traffic control on top of tear gas grenades before the gas had time to spread. Protesters also said they copied from Hong Kong.

My own invention, based on American culture, was the use of leaf blowers. It was apparently started by the family fathers who took part in the protests. Some protesters bought a leaf blower from the hardware store for themselves to blow tears of gas back on top of the police.

Protesters blew tear gas with a leaf blower at police.

Photo: Reuters / CAITLIN OCHS

Bicycle helmet and trash lid

In Minneapolis, the protesters were not equipped with much other than signs. Some carried baseball bats or sticks, but they are of no help in the fight against rubber bullets and tear gas.

In Portland, the majority of protesters wore helmets. Cycling and construction helmets were popular. Some wore bulletproof vests, others protected themselves with life jackets or extra layers of clothing against non-lethal ammunition fired by police.

There were also a lot of different homemade shields. One could be built, for example, from plywood or the lid of a large rubbish bin. According to some, the police aimed at the protesters within walking distance, so there were also lower guards used in Martial Arts in the division.

The protesters protected themselves with umbrellas and homemade shields.

Photo: Lehtikuva / AFP / Nathan Howard

The weapons of attack must be laser pointers, with which the protesters aimed at the police officers waiting in their positions in the courthouse. According to Reuters, two police officers are likely to be permanently blinded by the protesters' lasers.

Clashes between federal forces and well-prepared protesters were similar from day to day. At about 11 p.m., authorities warned protesters who did not disperse. Police then fired tear gas and stun grenades.

These means usually dispersed the protesters only slightly. Voluntary medical patrols flushed the eyes of those affected by tear gas and pepper spray. The protesters then returned to their positions in front of the courthouse.

Tear gas is best flushed from the eyes when the liquid is injected into the eye under high pressure.

Photo: Lehtikuva / AFP / Nathan Howard

The situation in Portland only calmed down when federal forces handed over responsibility to the Oregon State Police. The visit of Trump’s troops had virtually no consequence other than that both sides received practical training in the struggle against each other.

Tactical innovations will probably still be used during the summer and fall, as there is no indication that the demonstrations will end.