PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal agents who have been guarding the U.S. courthouse during violent protests in downtown Portland, Oregon, will begin withdrawing in the next 24 hours, Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday, though Trump administration officials said some would remain in the building and the entire contingent would stay in the city on standby.
While each side declared victory in the political fight that the deployment touched off, it was not clear if the complex agreement would reduce tensions on the streets of Portland, where protests have been staged nightly for more than two months. Many demonstrators are peaceful, but smaller numbers have thrown fireworks, flares, rocks and ball bearing at federal agents, used green lasers to blind them and spread graffiti over the face of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.
The deal also seemed likely to further muddle the situation by adding yet another law enforcement agency to the mix — the Oregon State Police.
President Donald Trump earlier this month sent agents to the city from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Marshals Service as protests against racial injustice increasingly targeted federal property, including the stately U.S. courthouse in downtown Portland. The deployment appeared to have the opposite effect, reinvigorating demonstrations with a new focus: getting rid of the federal presence.
Brown said agents with CBP and ICE will begin leaving the city’s downtown area on Thursday, but Acting Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf wouldn’t specify where the agents would go.
He insisted that a federal presence would remain in Portland until the Trump administration was assured the agreement was working and the Oregon State Police was sufficiently protecting federal property.
The plan calls for the U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service agents to remain inside a fence set up around the federal courthouse, along with some state police, to keep protesters out. State police will also be outside the fence to keep protesters back.
“I want to be clear about this, the entire DHS law enforcement presence in Portland will remain in Portland, whether they’re staying inside the courthouse, next door or a different location, obviously I’m not going to get into that,” Wolf said on a call with reporters. “If … we have indicators and warnings that (the state police) deployment is not working, that entire DHS law enforcement presence is available.”
Earlier in the day he issued a statement saying the plan negotiated with Brown over the last 24 hours includes a “robust presence” of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland.
“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.