Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced Wednesday that the Oregon governor’s office, Vice President Mike Pence, and officials from DHS have agreed to a plan to draw down the presence of federal agents in Portland, Oregon.
The news comes amid reports that the two parties were working on an amicable solution that would see federal agents from an elite Customs and Border Protection unit depart the city, but ensure that the federal courthouse at the center of nightly riots was protected.
Wolf released a statement Wednesday morning outlining the drawdown plan.
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 29, 2020
The plan, Wolf notes, includes a “robust presence of Oregon State Police” in downtown Portland and demands that state and local authorities — including Portland police officers who have so far been prevented from actively engaging rioters — secure “properties and streets” surrounding the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse and other federal properties, which have been “under nightly attack for the past two months.”
The agreement allows for federal agents from the Federal Protection Service to oversee efforts at securing the courthouse prior to handoff to local authorities and gives the Department of Homeland Security the right to change their “force posture” if and only if state and local authorities are able to sufficiently protect federal property.
Ultimately, the agreement appears to leave at least some federal agents in place inside the courthouse while shifting responsibility for protecting the courthouse perimeter to Oregon State Police until the riots stop or Oregon State Police is able to assume effective control.
Oregon’s governor Kate Brown was less formal in her announcement, celebrating what she termed the departure of an “occupying force.”
After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 29, 2020
“After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence,” Brown tweeted. “Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.”
Although she was harsh toward the federal government, Brown was significantly less aggressive toward protesters, who have been engaged in violent, destructive riots nightly for the past eight weeks. The riots were already a nightly occurrence when federal officials arrived in late June on assignment to protect the courthouse from arson attempts.
“Our local Oregon State Police officers will be downtown to protect Oregonians’ right to free speech and keep the peace,” she added. “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.”
Social media response to the announcement was mixed. Although many on the left were supportive of the plan, more progressive activists in the governor’s mentions noted that the “problem” would not be solved until all members of law enforcement are removed from the equation and the Portland Police Department and the Oregon State Police are defunded, per protester demands.
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