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Oregon leaders responding to federal officers at Portland protests
Federal agents standing guard in front of the Justice Center on Fourth of July weekend. Photo by Austin Johnson.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The acting secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security is criticizing elected leaders in Oregon over their response to recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice in downtown Portland.

In a series of tweets, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf called protesters “lawless anarchists,” and said local leaders have failed to address violence.

READ MORE | Homeland Security head in Portland after saying city 'under siege'

Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she spoke with Asst. Sec. Wolf, who is currently in Portland, and asked him to remove federal officers from city streets.

“His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way,” Brown said in a statement to KATU News. Her full statement is posted below.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says he hasn't been asked to meet with the acting secretary, but said if he were, he would decline.

The mayor also said he is aware DHS leadership is in town, and wishes they weren’t.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said he was invited to meet with Asst. Sec. Wolf but declined the offer, saying, "it became clear law enforcement in the City of Portland was becoming highly politicized." You can read his full statement below.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issued a statement Thursday night, calling on Portland police to stop coordinating with federal officers, and to stop "proactively deploying officers to police protests where federal agents are present."

"We have now spent over $7 million in overtime costs and I refuse to spend more of our limited resources on police violence. PPB should not act as a subsidiary of 45’s federal forces. We should not let his agenda dictate how we act in this moment," Hardesty said in a statement posted in full below.

Senator Jeff Merkley also issued a response to the recent presence of federal officers in Portland.

Federal forces shot an unarmed protester in the face. These shadowy forces have been escalating, not preventing, violence. If Sec. Wolf is coming here to inflame the situation so the president can look like a tough guy, he should turn around and leave our city now.

The senator says he talked to the deputy director of the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday.

He said he refused to answer basic questions about the role of federal officers in Portland.

"What the rules of engagement are, what roles they've been playing on the streets of Portland, who decided what equipment they have or when to use it, they will not answer questions about the level of coordination they've had with Portland Police," Merkley tells KATU News.

He said Deputy Director Derrick Driscoll made clear his officers have full federal authority to protect federal institutions - and to do whatever is needed to accomplish their mission.

Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici also responded Thursday to reports that authorities in unmarked white vans were picking up protesters off the streets.

Statement from Oregon Governor Kate Brown:

This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.

I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way. This, coming from the same President who used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters in Washington, DC to engineer a photo opportunity.

Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa.

Statement from Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty: 

I am proud to be among the loud chorus of elected officials calling for the federal troops in Portland’s streets to go home. Their presence here has escalated tensions and put countless Portlanders exercising their First Amendment Rights in greater danger. And - while the city does not have the ability to control federal actions, I do not agree that nothing can be done. For certain, we can control how our own Portland Police Bureau engages with protests and how we manage our response, particularly to this new changed landscape.

Portland cannot work side by side a militarized presence in our streets, which is why I am calling on PPB to immediately disengage in any coordination or collaboration with the federal officers and put an end to proactively deploying officers to police protests where federal agents are present.

In lieu of nightly presence where officers are waiting in riot gear, I propose we go back to a world where if a crime takes place, I encourage you to call 911, and our first responders can be dispatched to respond to specific incidents and investigate them on their own merits.

What must end is the nightly policing of protests where Portlanders are met with a police force dressed in riot gear resulting in tactics that indiscriminately affect large groups of Portlanders regardless of their actions.

We have now spent over $7 million in overtime costs and I refuse to spend more of our limited resources on police violence. PPB should not act as a subsidiary of 45’s federal forces. We should not let his agenda dictate how we act in this moment.

Statement from Mult. Co. Sheriff Mike Reese:

Regarding Dept. of Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf's visit: As part of a statewide law enforcement delegation to discuss recent responses to demonstrations in Portland, I was invited to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. I was under the impression this was going to be a thoughtful, honest and open discussion, but following statements made by Sec. Wolf, it became clear law enforcement in the City of Portland was becoming highly politicized, and for that reason, I declined to meet.

Protests are among the most difficult events to manage in policing today. We have a responsibility to safeguard the right of people to assemble and engage in free speech, while balancing other rights guaranteed in our Constitution, including maintaining public order by preventing rioting, arson and other illegal activity. As public safety professionals, we have to be measured and proportional in our response. We have to communicate our intentions and be fair and consistent, regardless of an event’s message or people’s actions.

As Sheriff, I value the positive the relationship we have with our local law enforcement partners, to include Federal Protective Services, U.S. Marshals Office and the FBI.

However, the actions by out-of-state federal agents last weekend failed to display good decision-making and sound tactical judgment. The use of force did not appear proportional to the actions of the demonstrators.

I look forward to a thorough investigation into the matter by the U.S. D.O.J. Inspector General. These actions caused a significant setback in our local efforts to end the nightly violence around the Justice Center and in Portland.

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