U.S.|Federal Agents Agree to Withdraw From Portland, With Conditions
Federal tactical teams that have clashed with protesters in Portland in recent weeks will soon begin leaving the city, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said Wednesday.
Under an agreement between Ms. Brown and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the governor’s office said the Oregon State Police will provide security for the exterior of the city’s federal courthouse, while the usual team of federal officers that protects the courthouse year-round will continue to provide security for the interior of the building.
Ms. Brown said the federal tactical teams that had deployed to the city would begin a phased withdrawal on Thursday. But Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement that though the department has agreed with the Oregon governor on a plan, the department will proceed with the withdrawal of security personnel in Portland only if federal officials are confident that federal properties will no longer be under attack.
“State and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack for the past two months,” Mr. Wolf said. “We anticipate the ability to change our force posture,” he added, once circumstances on the ground “significantly improve” with the deployment of additional state and local law enforcement.
Hours before the announcement of the agreement, President Trump doubled down on the need for the increased federal presence in Portland.
“You hear all sorts of reports about us leaving,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re not leaving until they’ve secured their city. We told the governor. We told the mayor. Secure your city. If they don’t secure their city soon, we have no choice. We’re going to have to go in and clean it out.”
The arrival of federal forces to protect the courthouse after weeks of raucous demonstrations outside protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis infuriated local officials who did not ask for the federal deployment. It also triggered a dramatic escalation in the protests in downtown Portland, with demonstrators mounting nightly rallies outside the courthouse that often included tear gas and fireworks.
“These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community,” Ms. Brown said.
Ms. Brown said that Vice President Mike Pence was among the people involved in the discussions to withdraw the federal officers.
The announcement came a day after officials in Washington State announced that a federal tactical team that had arrived last week in Seattle had since departed the city. Leaders in Seattle have dealt with their own protests, including one over the weekend in solidarity with Portland that included burned buildings, broken windows and local police repeatedly firing crowd-dispersal weapons.
Portland has seen more than 60 days of consecutive protests since Mr. Floyd’s death. Much of the strife in the city had been between Portland police officers and the protesters.
But after President Trump issued an executive order to protect statues and federal property, federal officials sent militarized tactical teams to Portland. They employed aggressive tactics to keep demonstrators away from federal property. One protester was shot in the head with a crowd-control munition, and a Navy veteran was hit repeatedly with a baton as he stood still. In a tactic that was challenged in court by the Oregon attorney general, the federal officers used unmarked vans to target protesters for arrest.
Protest crowds have grown into the thousands, drawing out groups of mothers, military veterans and nurses, though Mr. Trump has portrayed the protest crowd as “violent anarchists.” Some protesters have lobbed water bottles and fireworks while also pointing lasers at federal officers.
In addition to the Federal Protective Service, which normally employs mostly security contractors to guard the courthouse, the Trump administration has also deployed tactical agents from the Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Marshals to the courthouse and a federal office building nearby.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Marshals said they had identified 100 additional marshals to back up the officers protecting the courthouse.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.