Federal law enforcement agents will not be leaving Portland until the U.S. courthouse there is “safe and secure,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said late Wednesday, seemingly contradicting a statement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown earlier in the day about a “phased withdrawal” of federal officers.
“We will continue to keep law enforcement officers in the area to make sure that that courthouse is secure at the end of the day,” Wolf said on Fox News’ “Bill Hemmer Reports.”
“Over time, if the Oregon State Police and the plan that has been put in place is successful, and we can responsibly draw down law enforcement assets there, then we will.”
The statement appeared inconsistent with that of Governor Brown, who’d earlier posted to Twitter that “all” federal agents would be leaving downtown Portland.
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
Brown said in her post that the federal officers were acting as an “occupying force and brought violence.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also has been critical of agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Protective Service and Customs and Border Protection, who have been deployed to protect federal property and assets in the city, claiming they are escalating the violence.
The protests and riots have entered a ninth consecutive week since the death of a Black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse has become a target of the nightly mayhem for weeks, with rioters trying to breach the fencing erected around the building, lobbing explosives and debris at police, who have responded with tear gas and other non-lethal weapons.
Wolf said in a statement earlier that state and local police were to begin securing the streets, “especially those surrounding federal properties.”
But he flatly rejected accusations that the federal agents have escalated anything.
“What we know is that the violence in Portland, specifically, was there well before DHS or law enforcement officials arrived in Portland,” Wolf said to Fox News.
“The mayor, by his own words, declared that the city was under violence for more than a month before we got there, so this idea that we have somehow incited violence, the idea that enforcing federal law incites violence, is absolutely backward and I don’t understand that.”