Federal Agents Pull Out of Seattle, Mayor Says

July 29, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

Agents with a Border Patrol Tactical Unit have left Seattle after local officials complained about their presence, the city’s mayor said on July 28.

Officials have complained that the federal presence may escalate tensions in the city after the tactical unit arrived in Seattle last week to protect federal property. 

The unit was on standby after rioters attacked the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced the federal withdrawal on Twitter, writing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified her of the move. She added that the city’s policing decisions should be left with the police chief, not President Donald Trump.

Durkan had protested the deployment, saying it happened without the consent of local officials and could incite more violence. The weekend riots in Seattle left 59 officers injured and have led to 47 arrests.

Federal authorities do not require local permission to protect taxpayer-funded government property.

Durkan had previously denounced the violence in the protests in the wake of the police-custody death of George Floyd, arguing that the images are fodder for Trump’s re-election ads.

Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday drew a sharp distinction between the peaceful protests and the violent rioters and organized agitators.

Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr watches a Republican Exhibit video of people rioting, during the House Judiciary Committee hearing in the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, on July 28, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP via Getty Images)

After an initial wave of riots subsided last month, rioters in Portland kept up a nightly regimen of arson, vandalism, looting and assault. The federal response to the violence has triggered solidarity protests in cities including Seattle. A man who brought an AK-47 to a protest in Austin, Texas, was shot and killed after he allegedly pointed the rifle at a motorist. Two people were shot and wounded in Aurora, Colorado, after a rioter fired at a vehicle and hit protesters instead.

A man was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the Colorado shooting. Two protest groups sued the DHS on Monday for deploying agents to protect the Portland courthouse, saying it was unconstitutional for federal forces to take on roles reserved for state and local law enforcement.

Federal authorities arrested 22 rioters in Portland over the weekend, including 16 who were charged with assaulting federal officers. Three of the agents deployed in Portland have been injured with high-powered lasers and may never recover their sight.

Portland-riot-5
Demonstrators sit and kneel as tear gas fills the air during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse , in Portland, Ore., on July 26, 2020. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

Federal agents sent to Portland have used tear gas, pepper balls and stun grenades on protesters outside a federal courthouse. The rioters had lobbed explosives, rocks and fire bombs at agents, set fires around the courthouse and tore down a barricade.

“To state what should be obvious, peaceful protesters do not throw explosives into federal courthouses, tear down plywood with crowbars, or launch fecal matter at federal officers. Such acts are in fact federal crimes under statutes enacted by this Congress,” Barr told lawmakers.

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