- Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said on Wednesday that federal agents deployed to the city would start withdrawing on Thursday.
- Portland has seen nightly protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
- The Trump administration drew ire for sending the agents to protect federal buildings in Portland. There have been many reports of them using tear gas and nonlethal munitions to quell demonstrations.
- Brown described the federal officers as “an occupying force” and said it was time to address “the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability.”
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Federal agents who have battled with Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, in recent weeks will leave the city this week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said on Wednesday.
Brown tweeted that she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and other government leaders and that “the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland.”
“They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence,” she wrote.
Brown added that all Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would depart from downtown Portland beginning Thursday.
“Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians’ right to free speech and keep the peace,” Brown said.
Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians' right to free speech and keep the peace. Let's center the Black Lives Matter movement's demands for racial justice and police accountability. It's time for bold action to reform police practices.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 29, 2020
The New York Times reported that under the agreement, the state police officers would also guard the outside of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse – a hub of tension between protesters and law-enforcement officials – while federal officers would continue to provide security inside the building as they have long done.
Portland has seen nightly protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The demonstrations began with people demanding an end to systemic racism and police violence, but they transformed into anti-government protests after President Donald Trump dispatched federal forces to the city.
The move drew condemnation after photos and videos showed agents using tear gas and nonlethal munitions at demonstrations and news reports said they had grabbed protesters off streets and put them in unmarked vehicles.
Brown said on Wednesday that it was time to refocus attention on other matters at hand. “Let’s centre the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability,” she tweeted. “It’s time for bold action to reform police practices.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was tear-gassed by federal officers on July 22, this week joined five other mayors in calling on Congress “to swiftly pass legislation to block the administration from sending unidentified federal agents to operate with impunity” in their cities.
“The federal occupation of our community has brought a new kind of fear to our streets,” Wheeler wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Federal agents nearly killed a demonstrator, and their presence has led to increased violence and vandalism in our downtown core.”
Wheeler said he agreed with Brown that the chaos and violence that rocked Portland had “distracted our community from the Black voices at the centre of this movement, and the urgent work of reform.”
To that end, Wheeler said Portland’s City Council was poised to “fundamentally reimagine police accountability” by reducing the police department’s budget and reinvesting money in other services while changing policies and training protocols.
“The work of reform deserves our community’s full and complete attention, and I know that Portlanders will stay engaged. I’m proud of this community, and excited for the work ahead,” he said.
However, two narratives emerged from Portland on Wednesday.
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, said on Twitter that the agency would “maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure.”
Federal agents “will not back down from our legal duty to protect federal law enforcement officers and federal properties in the face of violent criminal behaviour,” Wolf added.
The Trump administration deployed the federal agents to Portland under a mission named “Operation Diligent Valor.” It involves 114 officers from the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service tasked with protecting federal facilities,The Washington Post reported last week, citing court filings.
Wolf also appeared to blame Portland for the unrest and the clashes between protesters and law-enforcement officers.
“The state of Oregon is finally agreeing to cooperate with our federal forces-exactly what we asked for since the nightly violence broke out two months ago,” he tweeted. “We’re glad Oregon is now correcting their months long error.”
Later in the day, Trump echoed Wolf’s sentiment at an event in Midland, Texas. “They will either solve their problem or we’ll send in the National Guard,” he said.
The Department of Justice is also overseeing “Operation Legend,” which it said pairs federal law-enforcement agencies with their state and local counterparts “to fight violent crime.” This mission started in Kansas City on July 8, reached Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 22, and expanded to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that those three cities were selected because they “have seen disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides,” adding that the department’s assets “will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”
So far, this operation has yielded one arrest.
Expanded Coverage Module: black-lives-matter-module