Federal agents who have clashed with rioters in Portland, Oregon, 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.
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“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 falsely 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.
Before departing Wednesday for a trip to Texas, President Donald Trump insisted federal troops would not leave Portland until local authorities “secured their city.”
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…do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2020
The announcement was an abrupt change from just two days earlier, when the U.S. government said it might send more federal agents to Portland instead.[Sposnored] Healthier Blood Pressure Starting in Just 8 Hours
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.
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. Riots have erupted in Portland every night for more than two months since the death of George Floyd, who was killed after being pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer.
“I have grown increasingly concerned at the nightly confrontation between local community members and federal officers. We need to recognize that the protests in Portland are not solely about the federal presence,” Brown said.
Many protesters want to see the Portland Police Bureau defunded and are angry that officers used tear gas on violent rioters multiple times before the federal government arrived and tensions escalated further. Brown said the departure of the federal agents was a chance to address that anger and begin to make improvements in community policing.
“I will work with community leaders and elected officials to take bolder action to reform our police practices — including those of the Portland Police Bureau. We need to get this right,” she said.
Nightly, downtown Portland protests spiral into violence as anarchists in black uniforms target the U.S. courthouse and the agents within with rocks, fireworks, and laser pointers. Federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition, and arrests.
These violent anarchists have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled explosives, Molotov cocktails, bricks, rocks, and bottles at the agents inside. Authorities this week reinforced the fence by putting concrete highway barriers around it.
Demonstrators near the courthouse Wednesday were met before dawn with tear gas, pepper balls and impact munitions fired by agents, The Oregonian newspaper reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this article