US President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday agreed to a deal to defuse clashes in Portland, Oregon, with the withdrawal of federal forces, but the timing remained in dispute.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said that the forces were to begin their phased pullout yesterday.
However, US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said that the officers would withdraw only if there are guarantees that local police can ensure that the federal courthouse would be secured.
Trump’s administration earlier this month sent the federal tactical teams to intervene in the city after weeks of protests against racism and police brutality saw windows broken and graffiti scrawled on the federal courthouse and other buildings.
“After my discussions with [US Vice President Mike] Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland,” Brown wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.”
In his statement, Wolf said that he and Brown had “agreed to a joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers.”
“That plan includes a robust presence of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland,” he said.
Wolf set no time line for an exit, saying that the “current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland” would remain until being assured that federal properties “will no longer be attacked” in the city.
Protesters on the streets of Portland on Wednesday night were skeptical that the withdrawal would proceed.
“I don’t think the Feds are going to leave, and if they do, the movement continues,” said 23-year-old Constantine, one of about 2,000 people gathered outside the city’s federal court building.
Despite Wolf’s announcement, Trump said that there was still a need for federal intervention in the city and vowed to send in the US National Guard if violence perpetrated by “anarchists” continued.
“I told my people a little while ago, if they don’t solve that problem locally very soon, we’re going to send in the National Guard and get it solved very quickly,” Trump told an energy conference in Texas. “They want to solve their problem. They’ve got a very short time to do it, but they’ll either solve that problem or we’ll send in the National Guard.”
In parallel with the crackdown in Portland, the administration has sent federal agents to supplement local law enforcement in several US cities facing a rise in gun crime such as Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque.
Wednesday’s announcement on Portland came as Trump’s administration said it was expanding a “surge” of federal agents to three more US cities — Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.
In a statement, US Attoney General William Barr said all that the three Democratic-run cities “have seen disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides.”
As part of so-called “Operation Legend,” just under 100 agents would head to the three Great Lakes cities, the US Department of Justice said.
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