CBP Chief Condemns Violence, ‘Criminal Destruction’ in Portland on July 4 Weekend

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
July 6, 2020Updated: July 6, 2020

Acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan on July 5 condemned the violence in Portland, Oregon, over the Fourth of July weekend, when protests-turned-riots in the city led to Border Patrol agents being called in to assist police officers.

Portland police officers first declared late on July 4 that a protest near the Justice Center had become a riot on the 38th consecutive day of civil unrest in Oregon’s largest city.

Officers used crowd-control munitions, including a type of tear gas, in an attempt to disperse the crowd, as rioters burned American flags and set off fireworks.

“Where are the local political leaders?” Morgan asked during an appearance on “Fox & Friends Weekend” on July 5. “What we saw in Portland last night was criminal, and we stood strong with our federal partners to resist that.”

His remarks followed the news that officers arrested or detained at least 21 people after they threw fireworks and mortars, injuring several officers. Portland police said in a news release that rioters broke windows at a federal courthouse and nearby businesses around 11 p.m. in a protest that lasted until 4:30 a.m. on July 5.

The 13 people arrested by Portland police ranged in age from 23 to 35 and were booked on suspicion of charges including rioting, disorderly conduct, and attempted assault on an officer, police said in the statement. One man faces charges of pointing a laser at an officer.

Eight more people were detained by officers with the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Services. Those people are facing possible charges of damage to government property, assault on officers, and interfering with officers, the agency said.

One of the men arrested by federal agents had a machete and a metal pipe, the agency said; others threw bricks, rocks, bottles, fireworks, and paint-filled balloons at officers outside the federal courthouse in Portland.

Video footage from the area showed demonstrators repeatedly clashing with police.

“These are not protesters, these are criminals who got together and organized and planned and actually brought weapons, they brought shields, they brought frozen water bottles, rocks, lasers, weapons with the intent to destroy a federal building and harm law enforcement officers,” Morgan said.

Morgan added that several USBP agents and law enforcement officers were assaulted by “these violent criminals” with beer bottles, frozen eggs, rocks, bottle rockets, and commercial-grade fireworks.

“This person wasn’t there to protest,” Morgan said of an individual who was found in possession of a pipe bomb, fused explosive device, machete, and knife when searched by agents. “They were there to cause destruction and incite violence.

“Regardless of your political affiliation or ideological beliefs, there’s no justification for violence & criminal destruction of our historic monuments, statutes, or federal property,” he added on Twitter. “We should all unite behind the concept that law & order is a cornerstone of American society.”

Morgan emphasized in the interview the distinction between peaceful protesters rallying against police brutality following the in-custody death of George Floyd on May 25 and those who are inciting violence nationwide amid the unrest.

“We are doing a disservice to peaceful, lawful protesters when we call these individuals protesters,” he said. “They’re not. They’re criminal thugs with an agenda.”

“We’re going to escalate to the use of force that’s needed to repel these criminals and apprehend them and prosecute them,” Morgan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.