Federal Police to Leave Portland

Phased withdrawal agreement meant to de-escalate tensions

(AP) — Federal agents who have clashed with protesters in Portland will begin a “phased withdrawal” from the city, Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement the plan negotiated with Brown over the last 24 hours includes a “robust presence” of Oregon State Police in the downtown of the state’s largest city.

“State and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack for the past two months,” Wolf said.

Agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin leaving the city’s downtown area on Thursday, Brown said. Federal Protective Service agents — who are always posted at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse — will work alongside state police to guard the exterior of the courthouse and a limited number of other federal agents will remain inside the courthouse, she said.

Wolf said that although federal agents will leave the downtown area, they will maintain a presence 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.” If conditions in Portland “improve significantly,” then the U.S. government will reassess its staffing levels in the city, he said.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler applauded the end of what he called “an illegal occupation” in a lengthy Twitter post, saying the news came on the same day that the City Council would vote on whether to refer a major police reform initiative to voters in November.

“The federal occupation of our community has brought a new kind of fear to our streets. Federal agents nearly killed a demonstrator, and their presence has led to increased violence and vandalism in our downtown core,” he said. “The work of reform deserves our community’s full and complete attention, and I know that Portlanders will stay engaged.”

Before departing Wednesday for a trip to Texas, President Donald Trump insisted federal troops would not leave Portland until local authorities “secured their city.”

“Either they’re gonna clean up Portland soon, or the federal government is going up, and we’re gonna do it for them,” he said.

The announcement was an abrupt about-face from just two days earlier, when the U.S. government said it might send more federal agents to Portland instead.

The U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security had been weighing this week whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.

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Federal officers advance on members of the "Wall of Moms" group during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in downtown Portland on Wednesday, July 29. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Brown, who worked with Vice President Mike Pence on the withdrawal, cautioned Wednesday that the departure of the Border Protection and immigration agents may not immediately resolve the conflict at the courthouse. Protests have roiled Portland for more than two months since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer.