- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his department has the authority to provide security for federal buildings in any state amid the ongoing protests.
- State leaders have condemned the deployment of federal agents to quell the protests, setting up a looming legal showdown over states’ rights and federal overreach.
- “We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not,” Wolf said during a Fox News interview. “That’s our responsibility.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his department has the authority in any state to protect the roughly 9,000 federal buildings, regardless of how state leaders feel about a federal presence.
In a Fox News interview on Monday morning, Wolf blamed state leaders for the ongoing protests that prompted the deployment of DHS agents to federal buildings last week, including a courthouse in Portland, Oregon.
State leaders have “fostered this environment that allows these individuals to attack the courthouse,” Wolf said during the interview, adding, “I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors to do our job.”
“We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not,” Wolf said. “That’s our responsibility.”
Wolf’s comments come as protests persist throughout the country after the killing of George Floyd in late May. The protests have continued for more than 50 days in Portland, where public buildings have been defaced and some protesters and local and state law-enforcement officials have clashed.
“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it,” the department said in a statement on Thursday. “This siege can end if state and local officials decide to take appropriate action instead of refusing to enforce the law. DHS will not abdicate its solemn duty to protect federal facilities and those within them.”
The department’s move sparked concern from a number of legal experts, particularly after video footage of protesters being whisked away in unmarked minivans emerged on social media. The videos show at least one protester being taken away by masked personnel wearing US Army uniforms and a nondescript “POLICE” patch, both of which are available online for purchase.
US Customs and Border Protection later confirmed its agents apprehended a protester who was “suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property” and said it concealed the names of its agents at the time because of “doxing incidents.”
State leaders have condemned the deployment of federal agents to quell the protests, setting up a legal showdown over states’ rights and potential federal overreach. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued DHS on Friday, alleging it was unlawfully detaining protesters without probable cause.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler during a CNN interview on Sunday accused DHS of “sharply escalating the situation” and said he believed “their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.”
“We haven’t asked them here, in fact we want them to leave,” Wheeler said, adding that he was imploring the Trump administration to “take these people out of our city.”
Speaking with reporters on Monday morning, President Donald Trump compared the protests across the country to the conflict in Afghanistan and said he would mobilize additional federal agents to stop the demonstrations. Trump’s comments come as DHS prepares for the possibility of deploying about 150 agents to Chicago, according to a Chicago Tribune report published Monday.