A strong fence was put back up around the U.S. courthouse in Portland after rioters attacked the building, while local leaders condemned the ongoing violence they pinned on anarchists.
Video footage and photographs showed the fencing being re-erected on Sunday outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Oregon’s largest city just three days after it had been removed.
Rioters attacked the building on Thursday, taking advantage of the fence-free area, smashing windows, and setting plywood on fire. Among the slogans scrawled on the side of the building was “NAZI’S WORK HERE.”
“As a first generation American whose parents lived through the horrors of World War II, in England and in Norway, you can’t say anything more offensive than alleging that the people who work inside that building, who I know and love, are Nazis,” acting U.S. Attorney Scott Asphaug told The Oregonian.
The official said he supports people’s right to protest but not the destruction that was seen, adding: “The people who work in that building are a lot stronger than graffiti and broken windows, and they’ll continue to do the important work they do.”
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said the decision to remove the fence was made “in collaboration with local leaders from Portland as part of a broader effort to help the city return to normalcy.”
The fence was originally put up in the summer of 2020 after rioters repeatedly targeted the courthouse. Federal officials have said the building would have been burned down if the fence wasn’t erected and if federal officers weren’t surged to the city to protect it.
Rioters, many affiliated with the far-left Antifa network or Black Lives Matter, have staged ongoing protests and riots in Portland over the past 10 months.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat who claimed the riots would die down when federal officers withdrew, joined with other local leaders on Monday to condemn the ongoing violence.
“We’re here together today to tell you that we are unified in our fight against the ongoing harm being done to neighborhoods and people all across the city of Portland. We want you to know that we collectively condemn hateful, intimidating, and destructive acts. And we want you to know that we’re aligning our resources. We’re revising our tactics, and we’re fighting back with everything that we’ve got,” Wheeler, who was re-elected last year, told a press conference.
Wheeler said that destruction caused Friday night before police officers surrounded rioters came from “the self-described, anarchist left.” He expressed support for the police tactic, which is known as kettling.
Deputy police chief Chris Davis said the same basic group has been responsible for all of the violent events.
“They tend to resist having any one person identified as the leader. And as an authority, they’re almost crowd sourced. And so they’ll come together and collaborate on their activities. And that’s like what I mean when we say that they act as a cohesive group. It’s different than what people traditionally think of in terms of group behavior with one authority who dictates all of the moves, but they are still coordinating with one another,” he said.
Wheeler also told an event last week that “the spike in gun violence and the sporadic, anarchist-inspired criminal destruction and vandalism has raised the stakes around community safety and public safety.” Portland has seen a dramatic increase in gun crimes. The city slashed funding to its police department last year, but Wheeler recently called for a $2 million infusion to support anti-crime efforts.