Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced early this morning that federal officials sent by the Trump administration to help quell the violent protests will begin withdrawing from Portland on Thursday.
“Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland,” Governor Brown tweeted.
This seems to be a withdrawal with conditions, however, as some federal officials will remain.
Acting Secretary Chad Wolf stated via Twitter that the DHS “will 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…”
The Portland protests started on May 29th in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The peaceful gatherings to protest police brutality against the African-American community, however, quickly turned violent.
On the first night of protests, businesses were vandalized, two officers were injured, one bystander was treated at a nearby hospital after being grazed by a bullet fired by a protestor, and the Multnomah County Justice Center, a jail holding nearly 300 inmates, was broken into and set on fire.
By the next morning, the Portland mayor had declared a state of emergency and established a curfew.
The National Guard was dispatched the following Monday.
Protests continued night after night. What would begin as peaceful demonstrations would devolve into violence. Projectiles (including fireworks) were thrown at police officers, property was set on fire, protestors were arrested, and mobs dispersed through the use of tear gas.
The Portland Police Department had many positive interactions with peaceful protestors in the beginning stages of these demonstrations, including a meeting between then-Police Bureau Chief Jami Resch and community members. Resch later praised the peaceful protestors for their “safe and responsible demonstration” while cautioning against the violent actions that had occurred.
Violence, however, continued to break out in the protests.
The protests and violence began to center around the Justice Center that had been set on fire on the first night of demonstrations. In early July, federal officials were sent to Portland to protect the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center among other government buildings.
While Oregon officials had rebuked and discouraged the violent behavior of some protestors from the beginning, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler complained that federal presence was making a tense situation worse. “We do not need or want their help,” Wheeler said of the federal officials when they arrived after over fifty nights of criminal activity in his city that included arson, vandalism, and violence.
Since then, there has been continual tension between Oregon and federal officials. The mayor and the governor have demanded the removal of the federal officials, while the Trump administration has insisted that they would not retreat while violence remained Portland’s status quo.
The Portland City Council recently passed policies that banned the Portland Police Bureau from cooperating with federal officials.
In response to federal presence in Portland and other cities across the nation, six Democratic mayors have written to Congress, urging them to block any ability of the Trump administration to send federal officials to their cities.
Since May 29th, Portland has seen 62 consecutive nights of violent protests.
Governor Brown and Acting Secretary Wolf are now working together to see Portland’s streets returned to peace and local control. Wolf released a statement explaining that with the withdrawal of federal officials, there would be a “robust presence of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland” to “(secure) properties and streets, especially those under surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack for the past two months.”