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Oregon U.S. Attorney Says Federal Officers Will Remain In Portland Until Riots Cease

Portland, OR – Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams blasted Portland city leaders for banning local police from working with federal agencies on Saturday, and called on residents to demand that the “violent extremists” who have been attacking the city be made to leave.

Williams told The Oregonian on July 25 that it was “nonsensical, political theater,” for city officials to prohibit Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers from cooperating with federal agencies.

He said the increased number of federal officers will remain in the city until the rioting ends.

“Anyone who thinks we’re just going to give up the courthouse, Hatfield, Pioneer (Courthouse) or any other federal facility downtown, that’s not going to happen,” Williams told The Oregonian. “We’re not leaving.”

“We’re going to do what we need to do to protect federal property,” he added. “When the violence ends, then there won’t be a need for the presence of nightly federal officers…It seems quite simple.”

President Donald Trump deployed an additional 114 federal officers to Portland to help protect federal properties in the city as attacks on officers and federal buildings intensified during the nightly riots that have continued for over 60 consecutive days, The Oregonian reported.

Federal officers have arrested or detained 60 rioters since early July, according to the paper.

Forty-six of those suspects face federal charges ranging from assault on an officer to attempted arson, The Oregonian reported.

Williams and District of Oregon U.S. Marshal Russel Burger said that the federal officers’ use of less-lethal impact munitions and tear gas to defend against the rioters has been justified.

Rioters have repeatedly fired mortars and other projectiles at federal officers, sprayed the federal courthouse with graffiti, broken windows, attempted to barricade exits, and ignited fires inside and outside of the building during overnight attacks.

Portland business owners have further reported a staggering $23 million in losses due to rioting and looting in the downtown area, FOX News reported.

“It is not a solution to tell federal officers to leave when there continues to be attacks on federal property and personnel,” Williams said, according to the Associated Press. “We are not leaving the building unprotected to be destroyed by people intent on doing so.”

The federal government erected a fence around the federal courthouse on July 18 in an attempt to “de-escalate” tensions between the rioters and federal officers, Marshal Burger told The Oregonian.

Within hours, rioters dismantled the fence and stacked the sections up in front of the courthouse doors, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Contractors later returned to rebuild the fence, then reinforced it with concrete barriers.

But instead of holding rioters accountable for the mayhem, city leaders have instead targeted the federal government.

In a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration on July 23, Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Chris Warner declared that the protective fence around the federal courthouse is illegal.

“Unidentified contractors have installed fencing and concrete barriers illegally in the City of Portland’s Right of Way on the streets surrounding the Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland,” Warner wrote.

“The structures are both unpermitted and represent a hazard to the traveling public, particularly along SW Main, which is a major bicycle corridor into the central business district,” the transportation director said. “The structure completely obstructs the bike lane and needs to be removed promptly.”

Warner warned that if the federal government refuses to comply with the directive, it will amount to a “Class I violation of City Code and Transportation Administrative Rules designed to protect the safety of the traveling public and will be subject to fines and potential legal action.”

Warner further enclosed a “Cease and Desist demand” from Chief Deputy City Attorney Robert Taylor, which was dated July 22.

Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said that the fence is “an abuse of public space and a threat to the traveling public,” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

“This illegal action will not be tolerated in our community,” Eudaly added.

Rioters have continued their attempts to destroy the barrier by shaking it and cutting into it, according to PPB.

Federal officers have been ordered to maintain a “defensive posture” inside the courthouse unless rioters attempt to knock the fence down or try to break into or set fire to the building, Marshal Burger told The Oregonian.

In such instances, officers have been directed to use “the minimal amount of force necessary to stop attacks on them,” he added.

Officers immediately come under attack when they exit the building, Marshal Burger noted.

Rioters pelt them with various objects, including ball bearings, water bottles, and fireworks, he said.

One officer was hospitalized on Friday night after being burned by a mortar blast, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel.

Another officer suffered a concussion, and four others suffered various other injuries, The Oregonian reported.

“We want to support people’s rights to express themselves…but at the same time when our people are under attack, they have to defend themselves,” Marshal Burger said. “It would be great if the peaceful protesters would tell the violent ones to please stop so they aren’t the recipient of gas or munitions.”

He told The Oregonian that federal officers will continue to do whatever is needed to protect themselves and federal buildings.

“If it means pushing them out four blocks away – if that’s what it takes – that’s what they got to do,” Marshal Burger said.

Williams said that allegations of excessive force or supposed “kidnappings” by federal officers are being investigated by an inspector general, FOX News reported.

On Monday, the mayors of Portland, Washington, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Chicago, and Seattle wrote a letter to U.S. Senate and House leaders, imploring them to make it illegal for the federal government to deploy federal officers to cities that haven’t requested their presence, according to the Associated Press.

“This administration’s egregious use of federal force on cities over the objections of local authorities should never happen,” the mayors declared.

Federal Protective Service Principal Deputy Director Kris Cline said that federal officers wouldn’t need to take action in Portland if the city would allow PPB to shut down the rioters.

“If the Portland Police Bureau were able to do what they typically do, they would be able to clear this out for this disturbance and we would leave our officers inside the building and not be visible,” Cline told the Associated Press.

Hundreds of rioters showed up at the courthouse on Sunday night and “spent hours yelling, chanting, banging on the fence and throwing objects over it,” PPB said in a press release.

Members of the group fired mortars over the barrier before several managed to scale the fence, police said.

They proceeded to light a fire inside the fenced-off courthouse portico just before midnight.

Meanwhile, a second mob ignited a large fire at the site of the now-dismantled “autonomous zone” in Lownsdale Square Park, according to PPB.

Portland police did not disperse the crowds, nor did they make any arrests, according to the press release.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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