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Portland Tells Feds To Take Down Fence Protecting Courthouse Or They’ll Sue

Portland, OR – The City of Portland has threatened to slap the federal government with “fines and potential legal action” if they refuse to remove the protective fencing surrounding a downtown federal courthouse.

The Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse has come under attack on a nightly basis over the course of the past two months.

Rioters have repeatedly fired mortars and other projectiles at federal officers, sprayed the building 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.

Although the fence has provided federal officers with some level of protection, rioters have incessantly attempted to tear it down.

One such effort took place on July 22, just feet away from where Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stood in solidarity with the rioters, video footage showed.

Hours after it was initially erected on July 18, 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.

Hours after Warner’s letter went out, over 1,000 rioters gathered outside the federal courthouse, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said in a press release.

In addition to setting fires inside the protective fence, “several other people were seen shaking the fence, launching projectiles over the fence, and using different tools to try and dissemble the fence,” police said.

After the barrier was breached, federal officers exited the building to disperse the mob.

“As Federal Police Officers dispersed the group they were hit with large projectiles, various incendiaries, and flashed with lasers,” the PPB said.

A mob of “a couple hundred people” returned to the area by approximately 1 a.m., and proceeded to set more fires, launch commercial grade fireworks at officer and “cut and breach” the fence, police said.

Federal officers exited the building and dispersed the crowd yet again.

Less than an hour later, PPB declared an unlawful assembly, but may rioters simply ignored them.

Portland police said they made no arrests during the night.

The U.S. General Services Administration has not responded to a request for comment on the city’s demands to remove the protective barriers, FOX News reported.

According to documents obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the federal government previously estimated the metal fence could cost up to $208,000 in rental fees if it is needed for the next six months.

“The FPS considered the usage of this fence not only critical in order to protect the federal complex, but more importantly the safety of our first responders who will be inside of the fence service as a last line of defense,” the document read.

The Federal Protective Service (FPS) also specifically requested that the barrier be strong enough to withstand a vehicle plowing into it at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“Our guys are taking a beating trying to defend that courthouse,” and FPS spokesperson told the news outlet.

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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