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Federal Agents to Leave Portland; Tensions Remain
By The Associated Press
PORTLAND - The Trump administration and Oregon leaders declared victory after it was announced that U.S. agents guarding a federal courthouse during violent demonstrations in Portland will pull back, but it wasn't clear the agreement will reduce tensions that have led to more than two months of protests.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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 they would go. He insisted 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.

Some demonstrators have thrown fireworks, flares, rocks and ball bearings at federal agents, used green lasers to blind them and spread graffiti over the face of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

President Donald Trump earlier this month sent federal authorities as protests against racial injustice increasingly targeted U.S. government property, including the stately courthouse in downtown Portland. The deployment appeared to have the opposite effect, reinvigorating demonstrations with a new focus: getting rid of the federal presence.

The deescalation 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,” Wolf said on a call with reporters.

Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said his agency would deploy a special operations team and some uniformed troopers to the courthouse for a two-week rotation. The agency hopes its efforts will allow the protective fence to be removed and “restore a semblance of normalcy, while meeting community expectations and our obligations to protect the federal property,” Hampton said, adding that the troopers were Oregonians.

The agreement also calls for the U.S. government to clean the graffiti off of the courthouse, which is federal property. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has previously said the federal government refused to clean the courthouse, contributing to the impression that the entire city was under siege.

Trump declared victory shortly after the announcement, tweeting that federal agents prevented Portland from being “burned and beaten to the ground.” The conflicts between protesters and the federal agents have been limited to roughly two square blocks around the courthouse and have not affected the rest of the city, which has been much more subdued amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown cautioned that the lower visibility of the federal agents — and their ultimate departure — won’t immediately resolve the conflict at the courthouse.

“The violence, the property destruction, which includes burning of trash cans and throwing of rocks, that must stop," the governor told The Associated Press.


Published 05:53 AM, Thursday Jul. 30, 2020
Updated 08:47 AM, Thursday Jul. 30, 2020

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