US President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to withdraw some federal security forces from Portland, Oregon, after weeks of clashes with protesters, it was reported on Thursday.
In a statement on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the pullout was conditional on local police protecting federal buildings, the focal point of the unrest.
Without setting a timeline for the pullout, Wolf said he and Oregon’s Democrat Governor, Kate Brow had “agreed to a joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers”.
“That plan includes a robust presence of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland.”
He added that “state and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack”.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Brown said: “They (federal agents) have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.”
But she added that federal officers from the US Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service will stay at the courthouse, where they are usually based.
Following the announcement, Trump declared victory, tweeting: “If the Federal Government and its brilliant Law Enforcement (Homeland) didn’t go into Portland one week ago, there would be no Portland.
“It would be burned and beaten to the ground. If the Mayor and Governor 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.”
However, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city centre on Wednesday night near the courthouse building.
The federal forces were deployed in Portland on July 4 to protect federal buildings that were vandalised during weeks of protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May.
Their deployment exacerbated the civil unrest, especially when footage emerged of demonstrators being grabbed off the street by federal officers and forced into unmarked cars.
Governor Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, both Democrats, complained they never asked for the federal intervention, blasting it as an election-year stunt by Trump.
Besides Portland, the Trump administration has also sent federal agents to several other cities including, Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque.
The US Department of Justice said on Wednesday it would also send federal officers to three more cities – Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee – owing to “disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides”.