Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf promised not to withdraw federal officers from Portland after they clashed with rioters outside a federal courthouse.
“DHS is not going to back down from our responsibilities. We are not escalating, we are protecting,” Wolf said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on July 20.
Large groups gather on a nightly basis in Oregon’s largest city and attempt to breach buildings. In recent days, they’ve repeatedly torn fencing from its foundations and used it to block entrances and exits to the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, a federal building.
Video footage from the area shows officers in tactical gear emerging from the courthouse at night and firing tear gas and other munitions to disperse the crowd.
The DHS hasn’t responded to a request by The Epoch Times to comment about what happened.
Portland police officers refrained from engaging with violent demonstrators overnight, the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement.
Rioters breached a fence that was erected around the courthouse at about 9:40 p.m. After federal officers emerged from the building to attempt to repair the fence and went back inside, the crowd began climbing the fence and pulled it down just before midnight, police said.
“Dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, and hockey sticks approached the doors of the courthouse. Federal law enforcement came out of the courthouse at about 11:50 p.m. and dispersed the crowd,” according to the bureau.
Another round of clashes took place at around 1:42 a.m.
The riots took place a day after the Portland police union’s building was set on fire. The flames were extinguished before the building burned down.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said at a press conference: “We need our elected officials … to condemn the violence. They need to condemn the looting, they need to condemn the burning, and they need to stand up and be leaders and protect the citizens of Portland.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat who is also the police commissioner, on July 18 ordered federal officers to remove themselves from the city’s operations center.
Wheeler hasn’t spoken about the fire set in the police union’s building. Instead, he and other city and state officials have called on federal officers to leave the city. Wheeler claims that federal officers’ actions have escalated the violence, and he accused the Trump administration of breaking the law, during an appearance on CNN on July 19.
The mayor told reporters last week that the violence was winding down before DHS agents ramped up their response to the unrest.
Wolf called Wheeler’s rhetoric “irresponsible,” pointing out that violent demonstrations started in the city in late May, well before a surge in federal assets.
“The local leaders there in Portland have fostered this environment that allows these individuals to, again, attack the courthouse and do these very violent acts, destructive acts, night after night after night. They congregate around midnight and they go to about 4, 4:30 a.m. every single night—over 50 nights—while the Portland leaders there do nothing about it,” he said.
President Donald Trump said over the weekend that his administration is trying to help Portland, not hurt it. The actions of federal officers are to protect federal property, the president said.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows suggested during an appearance on Fox on July 19 that Trump may take executive action.
“Attorney General Barr is weighing in on that with Secretary Wolf, and you’ll see something rolled out this week,” he said. Wolf declined to comment directly on what they’re planning.