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Poll: Majority of Americans Have Negative View of Trump’s Handling of Protests

The poll also found most Americans don’t think federal officers’ presence at protests are making things better.

A federal officer points a "less-lethal" weapon toward a crowd of a few hundred protesters in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 23, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.

Most Americans do not believe the aggressive tactics which President Donald Trump has employed to quell uprisings in cities across the country are making the situation better, a new poll has found.

According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday, just 36 percent of the country approves of the way Trump is responding to protests against racism and police violence. An overwhelming majority, 64 percent, say they disapprove of what he’s done.

Trump’s use of federal law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as the U.S. Marshals Service to deal with protesters is having a negative effect, according to a majority of those polled.

Just 30 percent of respondents said the use of federal officers is making the situation better. Fifty-two percent said that their presence in cities is actually making matters worse, while 19 percent say they have no effect one way or the other.

The data from the ABC News/Ipsos poll aligns with what other data have shown when it comes to the national uprising. Earlier this week, a Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Americans support the protests, with 53 percent saying they will be helpful in the long run toward achieving the goal of racial equality.

Portland, Oregon, where agents have snatched protesters from the streets without first identifying themselves and placing them into unmarked vans.

Videos from the nightly demonstrations showcase a violent response to protesters from federal law enforcement officers, including use of tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang devices, including many instances where individuals did not appear to be engaged in an illegal or life-threatening act of any kind.

Many have suggested that the federal officers’ presence has escalated the situation on the ground, and that their actions have prompted Portland residents to take action to protect themselves. Mac Smiff, a Black organizer in the city, gave his opinion in a now-viral video.

“We came out here dressed in T-shirts and twirling Hula-Hoops and stuff, and they started gassing us, so we came back with respirators, and they started shooting us, so we came back with vests, and they started aiming for the head, so we started wearing helmets, and now they call us terrorists,” Smiff said. “Who’s escalating this? It’s not us.”

Fifty years of research has consistently demonstrated that police departments oftentimes escalate situations at protests and demonstrations to the harm of protesters and themselves. Many states do not even offer de-escalation training options or regulations to local police forces, leaving it to municipalities to determine what standards should be used.

The situation in Portland may be even worse than that. According to The New York Times, the federal officers who were deployed to the city lacked any training in how to work with crowds or mass demonstrations prior to their arrival.