Federal Officers to Leave Portland, but Threat Remains

Ruben Fields
July 30, 2020

The Trump administration has reached an agreement with Oregon's Democratic governor to withdraw federal officers from downtown Portland, though the Department of Homeland Security says it will maintain a presence in the city for the time being.

The announcement was an abrupt about-face from just two days earlier, when the USA government said it might send more federal agents to Portland instead.

Two government watchdogs said last week that they had opened investigations into the conduct of federal agents responding to unrest in Portland, Oregon, following abuse of power allegations by members of Congress, local officials and the public. Now, per Brown's statement, OSP will be in charge of guarding the federal courthouse, and reporting directly to the state government.

Ms. Brown, a Democrat, confirmed the deal on Twitter - though she saw the details differently, saying Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel will withdraw starting Thursday.

The nightly Portland protests began after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities. In Portland, Oregon, protesters arrested by federal agents on even the most minor charges are being ordered by federal judges to sign a pledge not to protest again as a condition of their release from jail.

"We're glad OR is now correcting their months-long error", he added in a tweet.

He added that "state and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack".

In parallel with the contested crackdown in Portland, the administration has sent federal agents to supplement local law enforcement in several U.S. cities facing a rise in gun crime such as Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque - compounding public anger over the situation in Portland. She told him he needed to remove federal law enforcement.

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Federal officers declared an unlawful assembly at the federal courthouse in Portland just before midnight Wednesday, using crowd control measures like tear gas to try to disperse the crowd. But those forces would remain downtown on standby, he said.

"We need to recognize that the protests in Portland are not exclusively about the federal presence", she said.

Brown cautioned Wednesday that the lower visibility of the federal agents - and their ultimate departure - won't immediately resolve the conflict at the courthouse.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that she had received confirmation that US agents had left her city after being sent to Seattle last week to protect federal buildings amid lingering unrest. In a tactic that was challenged in court by the OR attorney general, the federal officers used unmarked vans to target protesters for arrest. "The departure of federal forces represents the beginning of a process that will be as hard as it is overdue".

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump retweeted an opinion piece from former judge Andrew Napolitano, who criticized the use of federal law enforcement without the permission of the state's governor, and described the officers' actions as "kidnapping", as opposed to arresting.

Protesters have tried nearly every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails and bricks, rocks and bottles at the agents inside. Authorities this week reinforced the fence by putting concrete highway barriers around it.

Demonstrators near the courthouse Wednesday were met before dawn with tear gas, pepper balls and impact munitions fired by agents, the Oregonian newspaper reported.

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