US, Oregon in talks about pulling agents in Portland
Portland (US): The Trump administration has started talks with the Oregon governor’s office and indicated that it would begin to draw down the presence of federal agents sent to quell two months of chaotic protests in Portland if the state stepped up its own enforcement, a senior White House official said on Tuesday.
The official stressed to The Associated Press that the talks with the office of Democratic Governor Kate Brown are in the early stages and there is no agreement.
The official was not authorised to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Brown didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office also didn’t immediately respond to an email.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officers again used tear gas to disperse protesters early Wednesday on the streets of Portland as loud booms filled the air.
Just a day earlier, the US Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security were weighing whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.
Homeland Security was considering a similar measure with Customs and Border Protection agents, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
President Donald Trump did not let up on criticising local authorities in their handling of the protests that began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities.
The nightly protests often spiral into violence as demonstrators target the US courthouse in Oregon’s largest city with rocks, fireworks and laser pointers and federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.
“We, as you know, have done an excellent job of watching over Portland and watching our courthouse where they wanted to burn it down, they’re anarchists, nothing short of anarchist agitators,” Trump said Tuesday. “And we have protected it very powerfully. And if we didn’t go there, I will tell you, you wouldn’t have a courthouse. You’d have a billion-dollar burned-out building.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that she had received confirmation that US agents had left her city after being sent to Seattle last week to protect federal buildings amid lingering unrest.
The developments came as the American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon filed a motion alleging that the militarised US agents are attacking journalists and legal observers with riot-control munitions, despite a federal court ordering them to stop.